Brandi Carbaugh is serious about saving money, and she utilizes coupons, in-store sales, the Internet and tricks she has learned to get the most value when she shops.
"I always look until I can find the best deals," Carbaugh said. "I began by researching how to get the best values and started doing this on my own. Now I help others get the most for their money as well."
Carbaugh said one big way she saves is by using a list for her must-have items, but she does her meal planning after she purchases her items.
"I plan my meals by what I buy that is a good purchase, rather than setting my meals and then shopping," she said. "This is backward from most people, but it helps save money by getting what is on sale and then basing meals around the good values."
Carbaugh scans newspapers, magazines and websites for coupons for the things she uses, and she also clips coupons she knows her friends and family can use. She said she buys 10 copies of The Inter-Mountain on Saturdays so she can have multiple coupons, saying when she gets a great bargain, she will purchase multiple items to stock up.
"Every store has its cycles they go through for sale items," Carbaugh said. "In January, there are sales on oatmeal, diet foods and cereals. Vitamins and cold medicines drop in price - and a few weeks before the Super Bowl, chips, soda and snack foods always go on sale. If you can combine it with coupons, you can save even more."
She also said retailers change their packaging and lots of products with the old packaging go on clearance at the beginning of the year. Carbaugh said to look for these items to save.
"It is always best to purchase items in season," Carbaugh said. "This assures you get the freshest items and the best prices."
Farmers markets and fresh items in season can be canned or frozen for later, and Carbaugh added this is good for the economy by supporting local farmers.
Carbaugh said she does not shop at warehouse stores because she does not feel she can get the best deals there.
"Warehouse stores have a membership fee, and if I have a coupon, I can purchase items in small quantities for very little when I combine sales and coupons," she said. "I can get more than the big stores offer at 60 percent or less the cost."
She said she also uses rewards, bonus cards and rebates. Carbaugh said she likes to combine these things to get dollars off future purchases.
"If you read the signs, some stores offer $4 or $2 or even $10 off your total purchase, or give you a coupon for that much money off your next purchase," she said. "And you can get online to see which manufactures are offering rebates for purchasing their products."
Carbaugh said she always goes shopping with a plan.
"J.C. Penney's offers $10 off a $25 purchase, so I can get great deals and then save more, getting $25 worth of merchandise for only $15," she said. "Old Navy offers $10 off of $50 when you sign up and give them your email."
Kroger offers money off its gas prices when customers use their rewards cards. Purchasing prescriptions there also adds to cents off the price of gasoline.
Carbaugh said people who use food stamps or EBT cards also can benefit by using coupons, rebates and sales.
"If you get $300 a month for food, you can still use coupons and rebates," Carbaugh said. "This can help someone on a compromised budget get even more food to feed their family with just a little work."
She said some stores even let customers use the overages on food for non-food items, but not every store participates.
Carbaugh said growing fruits and vegetables at home is another great way to save money - she grows tomatoes in containers - and another way is looking for overstock items.
"One time a store got in many more chickens than they ordered," Carbaugh said. "I purchased quite a few of them at 25 cents a pound, donated some and gave some to friends and family that could use them."
Listing items for sale on eBay is another way Carbaugh saves money.
"I sell things we are not using," Carbaugh said, adding that she also gets samples of items though Internet sites.
"I get items that I do not use," she said. "I give those to others who I know can use them, like dog and cat food."
Her last tip is to share - whether it be good advice, notices of sales, ways to save, refunds or rebate offerings, sharing coupons others can use or giving samples to others who can use them.
"Learning to save and saving should be shared," Carbaugh said. "We are all in this together."