(And probably an obvious one)
Know the value of coupons...
My friends know me to be the coupon queen. It's something I get from my penny pinching mother. I carry them with me in my purse everywhere I go and at any given point I have about 10. Let's face it, you never know when you'll be shopping. Whether someone suggests it during lunch hour, you forgot to get someone a gift, or you're hanging out with your friend and the plans change to shopping spree instead of a movie, you need to be prepared. Even if I don't use them, I give them out to people so they can benefit. Why waste it, they're going to go shopping anyway? But when I do use them, there is nothing more satisfying than getting a clearance item for even cheaper.
Case in point:
After my wedding last year I was so starved for new things during my little break after the honeymoon I went crazy and bought myself a whole new wardrobe. NOT SMART! But what was smart was that because it was after Christmas and I had all these coupons I bought 4 pairs of shoes, 2 dresses, 3 skirts, 2 blouses, and 3 pairs of pants for about $500. I kid you not. No, I don't shop at Marshalls, Kmart, Wallmart, or any other discount retailer. Most of that was from Banana Republic (and the outlet), BCBG, H&M, and Lord and Taylor. A good mix of cheap to expensive retailers.
So my first day back I walk into work with my Michael Khor's booties, and when the girls say, "those are so cute! But I could never afford them." I just tell them I used my coupon when they were on sale and got them for $60 (which adds up to being about 70% off). Most expensive purchase of the week, but most worth it.
My dad does the food shopping in our family. And while living near my parents, after he clips them he hands them off to us. You'd think we'd get the crappy leftovers of Metamucil, $99 glasses, etc. But there's actually good stuff in there. Plenty of toilet paper, toothpaste, and (for those of you who are into that kind of thing) frozen food gems to go around. I still don't understand how he passes those up, maybe it's just the difference between a man and woman who food shop? He clips coupons just for the same things and brands he buys every week.
You must must must get a store saver's card. Every week I look at our grocery bill and our savings just about double when you add in that card. It is another gimic to get you in the door, but fortunately for us you do save money that way.
I used to work at a supermarket, so I generally know how sales work. If you cut a coupon for the expensive better quality toilet paper one week, chances are that same week or the week after the toilet paper will be on sale. And usually the store will give you store coupons too. It's how the retailers get you hooked to a product. But if you think about it, if you get a more expensive product (like Kleenex tissues) on sale with a coupon you'll probably pay close to, the same, or less than the cheap store brand paper-bag feeling crap.
The same idea goes for shopping. My mother loves Khol's. To her credit, those prices are really cheap. I get lots of picture frames, white socks, and white t-shirts there. But a lot of times I don't like the fabrics (synthetics) or the cuts (either too big and matronly, or the clothes themselves could be for my 14 year old cousin). Let's face it, you're not going to go to Khol's to find truly stylish long lasting pieces for your wardrobe. Sure with a coupon you could buy this:
Full Price: 60.00
On Sale: 41.99
Can't find a coupon right now.
Free Shipping on $100 or more: $6.95 otherwise
Or you could go to Lord and Taylor's and buy this:
Full Price: 238.00
On website coupon 15% off: 202.30
Credit Card coupon 20%: 190.40
Sometimes you can combine them both: 161.84
Free shipping $99 or more: Doesn't matter the shipping here, we're spending more than $99.
Or even this dress:
Full Price: 418.00
Sale Price: 249.99
On website coupon 15% off: 212.49
Ok sure, I see your point that Khol's is still cheaper, but that dress is not as flattering as the other two (the embellishment around the neck and left arm will make that left arm look flabby and if you have a large chest (like myself) it will stick out and only bring more attention to the ladies) and way less stylish. And look at how much money we saved on the other two dresses (between about $40-200, depending on which route you go). And if we opened a credit card you'd get extra off and those wondering credit card coupons that come about every week (and a 20% one with every monthly statement). And that last dress is designer that you're getting for $200, Khol's can't boast that. But you can if you use your coupons wisely. And those $60 Michael Khor's booties are way cuter (and name brand friendly) than anything I've ever seen at Khol's for the same price.
Great websites for coupons: