Hello again from the Coupon Geek! I hope that since my last column, you have saved some money by trying some of my ideas or the ideas of other coupon users.
As a reminder, saving money is a marathon, not a sprint. Try to save a little more each time, but don't be discouraged if you forget to use coupons one week or fall off the budget wagon - you can always start back.
Now on to my next tip, and this is going to be one that some people shy away from: Don't be brand loyal.
Before you think, "This woman is crazy if she thinks I'm giving up my Folger's for Maxwell House," hear me out. I know that there are some items that you cannot/will not substitute. I will only eat Campbell's Tomato Soup, my husband will only eat Jif peanut butter, and the entire family refuses to eat anything except Miracle Whip - no off-brand mayonnaise for us. Those are items that I watch to go on sale, and I try to pay my rock bottom price for them and stock up.
However, for the majority of items that our family uses, we will use whichever brand is cheapest. For years, we used Suave shampoo because it was 97 cents at Walmart. Then I started couponing heavily for our HBA (Health & Beauty Aids), and I found that I could routinely get Pantene, Garnier and Herbal Essence for less than I was paying for Suave. Plus, most experts recommend changing your shampoo brand occasionally to prevent build-up. I still buy Suave if I can get it the cheapest, and we like it, but it is nice to have options.
I have had many people tell me that they don't use coupons because they buy store brands, and coupons cannot make brand names cheaper than store brands. Well, my friends, yes they can. Take for example that seasonal favorite, Stove Top stuffing. It is usually 50 cents more than the Kroger equivalent. If I don't have coupons to make it cheaper or it is not on sale, then I buy the Kroger brand. It's just as good, and we like it just as well. However, last year during the holiday season, Stove Top was on sale for 99 cents, and the Kroger brand for 79 cents. But I had a $1/4-boxes coupon for Stove Top, making the purchase price only 74 cents per box. I stocked up on the Stove Top at a cheaper price than I would normally pay for the store brand.
Obviously, this money saving tactic requires family agreement. Your family has to be open to eating a different brand of spaghetti sauce every time you make spaghetti or you will just be buying food that goes to waste. Luckily, this is all my kids know, so they expect it. If your family is resistant to change, try mixing the new brand with the old until they get used to it, or you could try tricking them. My mom used to put the generic raisin bran in the brand name box, and we never knew the difference. If you do that, be careful. I tried to substitute regular five-minute oats in the box from the husband's one-minute Quaker Quick Oats. That did not end well.
Of course, I am not recommending that you change things up if you have allergies to food or skin allergies, but, if you can, try buying a different brand of shampoo, laundry detergent or spaghetti sauce the next time you find it on sale. You never know, you might find a new favorite.
Until next time, clip those coupons, Send me questions or great coupon stories at firstname.lastname@example.org.