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Thu, Nov. 21

Practical Saver: Break away from brand loyalty to save money

I fully understand the desire to resist change. Routines are easy. Besides, so many things are continually changing around us; it is tiring to keep up with it all. Cellphones are archaic after two years. The first iPad was released in April 2010, and two years later they have already released the third generation. Change can be overwhelming. That may be why we tend to be brand-loyal and purchase the same cereal and peanut butter year after year after year. It is possible that we like some things to stay the same.

My husband laughed at me when I tried to tell him that the Bible talks about converting to coupons. "You see," I explained, "it clearly advises that we need to turn from our routine and try coupons." Then I showed him Deuteronomy 2:3: "You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north." In this case, scripture is talking about the Israelites who have been wandering in the desert. I am quite certain this could apply to shoppers wandering aimlessly in the store. You have avoided coupons long enough. Now grab the newspaper and start clipping.

Having helped people for years with coupons and spoken to thousands in classes and at conventions, one argument that I can count on hearing is, "Coupons are not for things we eat." Though I understand this opposition, I'm not convinced it's valid. There are a ton of items we don't eat, such as toiletries, paper goods, household items, and cleaners that we can score huge savings on with coupon strategies. There are also many products that will work for special diets that have coupons available; it will just take a little effort and a little change.

Let's assume that you are not willing to make any changes on your food purchases. I am confident that I can significantly reduce the non-food portion of your spending. It is quite common to get major savings on deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, dish soap, floss, shampoo, razors, feminine products, cleaners, hairspray and paper towels. If you purchased one item per month at regular price of everything that I listed above, it would roughly add up to $28 per month. But if you waited for a sale and used coupons, you could spend as little as $7 per month. All it takes is a little change, and you score up to a $252 per year raise.

Back to food. When you scan the grocery sales, you will most likely find that many of the items on sale are actually allowed on your diet. Bingo, another raise. Let's start with a basic principle of saving on groceries: stocking up when the item is on sale (versus buying it because you are out of it). Let's assume that you are on a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, there are thousands of gluten-free products like Classico Pasta Sauce, Heinz Ketchup, Yoplait, and shredded cheese. Stock up on these items during sales, use a coupon, and rejoice in significant savings. If you purchase three of each of the products I just listed at stock-up prices versus purchasing at regular prices, you will have saved another $14 per month, and have given yourself another $168 per year raise. If you found 10 more items that would work for your diet and committed to shopping the sales with a coupon, the savings could be another $25 per month ($300 per year)! Another easy raise banked.

I have described a few simple changes that can earn you up to a $720 per year raise. Even though the products may not be the exact items you normally purchase, they work for you and your diet. Little by little, if you quit circling the mountain and grab the coupons, you will win. Change can be adventurous, as well as profitable, and not as hard as you may think.

Kara Rozendaal, a financial planner, wife, and homeschool mother of three, has lived in Prescott Valley for 15 years. Learn more about her classes and ways to save money at www.PracticalSaver.com.

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