Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The No-Such-Thing-As-A-Free-Lunch Theory goes out the window

Several summers ago, I watched my first episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC. So intriguing and seductive was the idea of tonnes and tonnes of free stuff that it prompted me to do some internet research. I quickly concluded that the kind of free stuff that TLC was advertising was only possible in the USA. Canadian stores were too clever for that.

Probably simultaneous to my own conclusion that couponing was impossible in Canada, my friend (I'll call her Lally) was doing her own research on the internet, spurred on by her own intrigue in the Extreme Couponing show (and her summer boredom). And simultaneous to my own decision that such rewards were beyond reach, she was deciding the exact opposite.

Lally has discovered local blogs written by Canadian couponers. And Lally has become adept at scoring free stuff. She's scored so much free stuff that she donated 160 items to a woman's shelter hamper last Christmas. All of it was stuff she'd couponed and gotten for free.

We were at a sundae girl's night party when the topic of Extreme Couponing slipped out of my mouth and Lally shot me a glance across the table, which I mistook for judgement. In fact, she was locking eyes with a kindred spirit.

Since then, I have discovered a few key websites and a few well-kept secrets about couponing.

#1: It doesn't have to be a lot of work.  There are blogs that do the work for you:

This is my favourite:
And this is Lally's favourite:
(Her words to me were, "She'll change your life.")

#2: Get a coupon organizer (I bought mine at Walmart)

#3: Start clipping coupons, searching the net for coupons, filling out on-line surveys for coupons, and sending e-mails to manufacturers for coupons. Chapmans gives away one $5 off coupon per family/household per year only if you ask for it.  But if you have this in your back pocket, when Chapmans ice-cream goes on sale for $4.99, you can score it for free. If you write Colgate an e-mail saying how much you enjoy their stuff and asking if they'll send you coupons so you can continue to enjoy their stuff, they will.

#4: Visit the blogs mentioned above once a week.  They have sections called Coupon Match-ups where they match up current sales prices with coupons (which you may or may not have in your possession) and if you do, you can get stuff for super cheap or even FREE.

#5: Apparently (and I haven't tried this yet), if an item is on sale for Buy 1 Get 1 Free and you have a Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupon, you buy one and get TWO for free.

There's a lot more to know and learn and I won't bore you with it right here and now, but I will leave you with this:

Lally gave me a link for an on-line Rexall coupon for $2.00 off Stayfree pads. Through a Coupon Match-up, she showed me last week that Stayfree pads were on sale for $1.99 at Rexall.  I marched myself down to Rexall, coupon in my sweaty little hand, took a package of 24 pads off the shelf and walked with knocking knees up to the cash register. The cashier swiped my item, swiped the coupon and stared at the register.  Then she said, "That's amazing." The subtotal was a credit of a penny, but somehow I had to pay 10 cents of taxes. So in the end, I paid 9 cents for 24 Stayfree pads.

I walked out of that store with an enormous sense of satisfaction and my eyes on the stars. For if I can buy a pack of pads for 9 cents, then maybe, just maybe, there is a free lunch out there somewhere.

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