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BEACON Senior News

Modern-day couponing

May 03, 2022 10:49AM ● By Adam Cochran

Growing up, my mom and grandma would clip and sort coupons. They would even go together on shopping trips to stock up on items that had purchase limits for the sales. Sometimes, they would use the power of the double coupon combined with a good sale and pay pennies for something that would have otherwise cost several dollars.

We are experiencing a drastic increase in inflation, similar to what the country experienced in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the cost of everything is rising quickly. Unlike those days, the printed coupon and grocery store circulars aren’t as ubiquitous. But, there are still great deals to be had.

In the old days, clipping coupons was very time intensive. Typically, you had to subscribe to the Sunday and Wednesday newspapers, and carefully sort your junk mail to ensure a valuable coupon didn’t accidentally make it into the trash. You also had to read the circulars to see what items were significantly marked down that week.

However, it paid off big time when our family finances were beyond tight. My mom would come home with armloads of groceries and we never went hungry. In fact, we never even went without ice cream or good cereal.

Thanks to technology, shopping for deals is easier than ever. Every major store offers an app. Restaurants, retail stores, gas stations and hotels all provide portals to better deals than what you would pay by simply walking in the door. Here are some of my favorite ways to use shopping apps to make shopping easier and less expensive.

Sign up for loyalty programs. Before you begin shopping for the best price, take the time to set up an account with every place you plan on shopping. This can take some time, but it will be worth it because many gas stations, restaurants and retailers have special app-only offers that you can only see if you are logged in.

This can feel overwhelming because it means you have to create a new password for each app. To make this easier, use a basic format with a simple prefix and use the business name for the rest and add a special character somewhere in the mix. Example: MyPw!Walmart.

Opt out of and turn off alerts. Most apps have a checkbox asking if you’d like to receive alerts about deals. You don’t. Trust me.

Set security to allow location services while using the app. This may seem intrusive, but it’s in your best interest. When you are using the app at Walmart or McDonald’s, it will use your location to ensure that the price and deals for that exact location are displayed.

Use apps instead of your phone number. Many stores allow you to use your phone number at checkout to ensure you receive all general loyalty deals, but many businesses are adding deals to the app that will only apply if you scan your loyalty barcode via the app.

Fuel is almost always cheaper with apps. City Market, Walmart, Shell, Exxon and Sinclair are just a few of the places where you can get as much as 10 cents off each gallon of gas if you enter your loyalty info before filling the tank.

Never waste time looking for something in the store. In addition to current sales, inventory and prices, most major retailers also display where the item is located in the store. This can be extremely helpful when you make a trip to the hardware store for everything you need to fix a major leak in your roof-mounted swamp cooler or you have lost track of the four places that Walmart keeps flashlights.

Use your phone’s search to locate apps. Once you download all these apps, it can be a pain to keep track of where they are located on your smartphone. Both Apple and Android phones have a search tool that allows you to type in the first few letters of the store name to reveal the app icon. You can also use “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” to open the app with your voice.

What about privacy? The most common concern that I hear from people about using shopping apps is that they don’t want the store to know what they buy. While this is even more true if you are using a loyalty card, if you have ever returned something to Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy or most other retailers, they can look up your receipt by using the credit card number you purchased the item with. That means the store knows what you bought, when you bought it, what else you purchased and how much you paid. All loyalty programs are used by stores to track data. They use that data to set prices, arrange their stores, make inventory decisions and lure you back to buy more. 

Send your technology questions to Adam in care of the BEACON, or email him directly at [email protected]