Jessica Hacker of Living on a Coupon says clipping coupons has allowed her to cut her family's grocery bill by 90 percent. Free samples may be as close as your local supermarket. More are at your fingertips on the Internet. Freebies, though, are usually small samples, rather than full-sized products. So take advantage of coupons and other money-saving strategies to keep expenses down and live more cheaply.
Get free samples through manufacturers’ websites. Companies, such as Procter and Gamble, often offer samples to attract customers. When you visit a manufacturer’s website, look for an “offer” or “sample.” If the company has an offer, provide your email or street address to receive it. Subscribe to a free sample daily email alert from the online magazine “All You.”
Go to trade shows and festivals and visit booths offering free samples. You might also receive a free T-shirt or cap at the company picnic or by volunteering at a charity event. Grocery stores and supermarkets frequently provide free food samples around meal time in an effort to entice you to purchase new products.
Look for free events in your area. For example, if you live in New York City, check the website of Club Freetime for free concerts, tours, workshops, artist receptions and other cultural events. Contact your regional arts organizations, city park district and visitor's bureau for schedules of free events.
Find printable coupons on manufacturers' websites and on couponing sites such as CouponMom and Coupon Network by Catalina. Gather coupons from your local newspaper, magazines you subscribe to and coupon mailings. Clip coupons in the weekly advertisement of your local grocery store. Generally, you can use both a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item. Some grocers even double the value of manufacturers’ coupons.
Save money by purchasing services through websites such as Groupon and Ebates. Groupon offers discounts to restaurants, fitness centers and stores in major cities if a sufficient number of people purchase the advertised deal. Ebates allows you to get cash back on purchases made at select online stores, hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
Keep a detailed list of the things you purchase throughout an entire month. Review the list and identify those items that are not necessities. To live more cheaply, cut back on entertainment, subscriptions, dining out and vacations. Create a budget and use cash, rather than a credit or debit card, to pay for things when possible. Ask merchants about unadvertised deals they may have due to seasonal changes, overstocking, order cancellations or product damage.
Purchase in bulk. A large box of cereal, for example, is generally less expensive per ounce than a small box. Watch for sales on nonperishable items, such as toilet paper and canned goods, and stock up. Plant a garden and preserve food for later use. Purchase gently used clothes at a consignment or thrift shop. Find second-hand household items at a garage sale, which also might have an assortment of give-away things.
Inquire with your electric company about enrolling in an off-peak or budget-saver plan. Lower the temperature on your water-heater to 120 degrees and install a water-conserving showerhead. For long-term savings, purchase energy-efficient appliances when you update your kitchen, laundry room, furnace or water heater.
Before using a coupon, compare the price of the product less the coupon amount with the price of a similar generic or discounted product. The item with the coupon isn’t always the best deal.
Some coupon and free sample offers on the internet are hoaxes, so only deal with reliable websites. It can be embarrassing to present a coupon you printed from the Internet to a clerk only to discover it is fraudulent. For help in identifying fradulent coupons, visit the Coupon Information Corporation website.
Janice Tingum has been writing professionally since 1979. She is the author of the biography "E.B. White: The Elements of a Writer" and her articles have appeared in “Lady’s Circle” and “Today’s Christian Woman” magazines. Tingum also paints and writes art instruction ebooks.