Lois' Column for THE VIRTUAL TIMES HUNTSVILLE AL

CLIPPIN' and SAVIN'

THERE IS A LOT MORE THAN JUST THE KITCHEN.

There is a lot more to using coupons than just using cent's off coupons at the grocery store. When you think about coupons you need to think about using coupons for everything. You can use coupons for dry cleaning, for restaurants, for toys, for motels, etc. You can find these coupons in home mailers. A lot of people I know throw the home mailers away. I always go though mine and fine many good coupons for my favorite restaurants. I have a special envelope in my purse where I file these restaurant coupons and then when we go out to eat I choose a restaurant where there is a good deal, like $5 off a dinner, or like buy one dinner and get one dinner free. If you look for restaurant coupons you can eat out a lot more than when you pay full price. Also on the restaurants where we do not go often I share those coupons with people at work that I know like those and they in turn share with me.

Dry cleaning costs so much. Check the prices of each dry cleaner with and without the coupon. If it is cheaper with the coupon then use that dry cleaner if it is near your home or within a reasonable distance. You have to know your prices at the closest dry cleaners and then plan your dry cleaning jobs accordingly.

Many times I see really good coupons, $2 to $10 off on Tyco or other very durable toys. I use those coupons to purchase gifts for my grandchildren during the off season then I am prepared for birthdays and Christmas.

I have also received a lot of motel coupons in the mail for certain chains of motels. Generally if I am visiting a certain area I call the convention and visitors bureau. You can sometimes get that number from the 1-800 directory service. I then ask the convention and visitors bureau to send me all the information and coupons they have for the area I am going to visit. Generally I receive a very nice package in the mail that helps me save money on my vacations.

A few of the best coupons I have seen in advertisements lately was a $3 off on gas at a local convenience store and a $10 Christmas certificate at a hardware store. The hardware store told me they had sent out $360,000 worth of those certificates and very few of them were actually redeemed. They were making this offer as an incentive to get new people into their store so people would know what all they had to sell.

I have also seen coupons on plants at plant nurseries, such as purchase one and get one free.

Sometimes soft drink lids will have a statement in them that says $10 off at Foot Locker for shoes, or this lid entitles you to a free soft drink.

The ways to get coupons are many and various. Start looking now to see what you can save this year. Remember all you can save you will have to use on something else that you really want or need.

If you are interested in a booklet filled with coupons and refund forms that gives you hints on how to save by couponing and refunding you may send $3 postage and handling to Coupons and Refunds, PO BOX 237, Harvest, AL 35749.


REFUNDING AND COUPONING AS A HOBBY

Most hobbies cost money, however I have been interested in a hobby for years where I actually make or save money. This is a hobby called refunding and couponing.

You know what couponing is-that is easy-you clip coupons from newspapers and magazines, file them alphabetically by product in a coupon saver, and then always remember to take them to the store with you and USE THEM. This can be a very profitable hobby if you are well organized and if there is a store near by that doubles or triples coupons. At one time I purchased over $300.00 worth of groceries for $16.00. A shopping spree such as that, however, takes time and a lot of effort. The average weekly shopper generally saves from 10% to 25% on their grocery bill each week. The money you save can be used towards other items you may be needing or wanting. One of the best coupons I saw recently was a $2.00 coupon off fresh catfish. Catfish wasn't much more than $2.00 a pound and for less than $1 I was able to have a nice evening meal. (Many people overlook coupons such as these.) You need to be organized and thoughtful and take sales into consideration. Purchase when you have a coupon and when the item is on sale. You may also want to trade your unwanted coupons with your friends, relatives and neighbors for coupons you can use.

The hobby of refunding is when you save your box tops, universal product codes (UPCS), box bottoms, labels, inner seals, etc. and send these away to clearing houses in conjunction with a refund offer you might see in the newspaper, a magazine, or on a product package. A typical refund offer would possibly call for three or four UPCS and the cash register tape with the purchase price of the product circled. Many times people have enough products in their cupboards with labels that when they find the refund form they have already purchased the products. When you start refunding you will want to look for refund forms, you will want to begin saving your qualifiers (box tops and labels, etc.), and you will want to save all your cash register tapes. File your refund form by the month they expire. File your qualifiers by company name and file your cash register tapes in alphabetical order of the product that you expect to have a refund. For example when you purchase Tylenol you will want to file under "T" and put your cash register tape with it as Tylenol products generally have refund offers on them. I have been refunding for so many years that I have an extensive file of qualifiers and cash register tapes. Many times the cash register tape has to have a certain date so the older tapes may not help, and in that case I throw them away.

Stouffer's Lean Cuisine has two really good refund offers available now. One offer gives you $5 cash rebate for mailing in twenty Stouffer's Lean Cuisine UPCS or $10 cash rebate for mailing in forty Stouffer's Lean Cuisine UPCS. The other offer gives you a free Stouffer's Entree Coupon for 12 UPCS from Stouffers, and grocery certificates or dishes for 30 to 60 UPCS.

Swanson UPCS are generally good to save too. If you cannot use them for refund offers you can generally save them for your schools. There are always school programs where the schools mail in labels in exchange for sports equipment, computers, etc. Currently schools need you to save packaging such as General Mills boxtops, Campbells labels, Vlasic, Swanson, Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Pace, Mrs. Pauls, Franco American, V-8 Juice, Kodak, Hefty, Hershey's, Little Debbie Snacks and Pepsi.

Currently Swansons also have a great Starts Refund Offer, $3 for ten UPCS; a Swanson Free Dinner Offer - one free dinner for four Swanson Dinner UPCS or two free dinners for seven Swanson Dinner UPCS; and a Swanson Meat UPC you mail with two Campbell Soup front labels for a free can of Campbell's Soup.

Renuzit always seems to have refund offers. If you purchase any of their products you will want to save the packaging as well as the store identified cash register tapes. I have seen rebates recently for New Naturals, Long Last Mist, LongLast AromaSense, Roommate Decorator and others. Generally you can find the forms where you purchase the product or in the Sunday Supplements that are in the newspapers .

Videos quite often have refund offers in conjunction with other products. Always save the proof of purchase (generally a small tab) and the cash register tape.

Playskool many times has rebates on their items, recently I saw a Playskool 1-2-3 Baseball Rebate and an In Line Skate Rebate. If you are purchasing Playskool items you will want to watch for or ask the cashier for rebate forms.

If you would like a booklet on "How to Refund" and extra coupons and current refund forms, you may send $3 postage and handling to: Refund Booklet, PO Box 237, Harvest, AL 35749.