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February 17, 2019

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Become a bargain master: Tips on using the calendar, and coupons, to maximum effect

coupons

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In the modern era, there’s nothing quite like ending a shopping safari with a bargain. So when it comes to consumer goods, why not stack the odds? There’s endless knowledge to be had about sales cycles, couponing and planning, and it can go a long way to saving hundreds of dollars if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Interested in learning more? Keep reading.

Deal cycles

Know the cycle

Stores usually follow a fairly steady calendar for markdowns. Nonseasonal items typically go on sale every eight to 12 weeks. Pay attention to the cycle to earn more savings. Also, try to time your purchases to coincide with holidays and clearance sales. For example, snack foods are marked down in advance of the Super Bowl. You can also snag great deals on clearance candy after Valentine’s Day and stock up on heavily-discounted holiday items in January for the following year.

Timing your purchases can help you save money. Some sales are tied to the introduction of new models, while others are long-standing traditions, such as January white sales. Sales sometimes occur when a season is coming to an end and inventories are thin. Others take place during the height of a season, when retailers hope to pull shoppers into the store with good deals so they buy other items. Here's a look at the best time to buy certain items.

January: Bedding and linens, toys, treadmills and ellipticals, TVs, paint, men's suits, pools and hot tubs

February: Humidifiers, indoor furniture, treadmills and ellipticals, video games

March: Digital cameras, small consumer electronic devices, TVs, winter sports gear, luggage, jewelry, perfume. March is the best time to buy frozen food, because it's Frozen Food Month. Manufacturers celebrate with big price reductions.

April: Laptop and desktop computers, lawn mowers, spring clothing, cars, vacuum cleaners. April is the best time for thrift-store shopping. Stores typically are flush with merchandise from people spring cleaning, which translates to bargains for shoppers.

Buy bulk!

Buy in bulk when savings are 60 percent or greater. When that happens, buy at least eight weeks’ worth of a single item to last you until the next prime buying period.

May: Athletic apparel and shoes, camping and outdoor gear, carpeting, lawn mowers, mattresses, cordless phones, refrigerators

June: Carpeting, computers, indoor furniture, summer sports gear, swimwear, pots, pans, dishware, cellphones, tools

July: Camcorders, home decor, ranges and stoves, bottled water

August: Air conditioners, backpacks, dehumidifiers, outdoor furniture, children's play equipment

September: Bikes, digital cameras, grills, lawn mowers, shrubs, trees and perennials, wine, sunglasses

October: Bikes, winter coats, jeans, washers and dryers, camping gear

November: Baby products, GPS navigators, toys, TVs, electronics, pajamas and slippers, sneakers, wedding dresses

December: Bikes, home appliances, small consumer electronics, toys, scarves and gloves, golf clubs, air conditioners, Champagne

Couponing

Keep them organized

Buy an accordion-style file folder, and place unclipped coupon inserts into each section, categorized by date. Use a three-ring binder filled with plastic baseball card inserts. Regardless of your method, keeping them organized is key.

The key to getting the best bargains is collecting as many coupons as possible for the items you use. Here's where to look:

Newspapers: Buy or subscribe to every newspaper that includes the inserts on the days the coupons are given. Your grocery savings should far outweigh the cost. It might even be worth buying multiple subscriptions or copies.

Magazines: Many magazines and periodic publications include valuable coupons from manufacturers and retailers. But be sure to subscribe or buy strategically, as the costs can add up.

Use a coupon-matching site

There are hundreds of bloggers focused on coupon shopping, and various sites post daily deals that can give you a heads-up on the best buys available. A few examples include TheKrazyCouponLady.com, CouponMom.com and PassionForSavings.com.

Online: There are hundreds of websites that claim to offer free coupons, but some are more reputable and reliable than others. Here are a few: Coupons.com, ValPak.com, RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com. For nongrocery items from retail stores, RetailMeNot.com can't be beat.

In stores: If you are an observant shopper, you can snag extra coupons as you shop. Tearpads are coupons that hang from market shelves or displays, and blinkies are electronic coupon machines, also on grocery store shelves and displays, that automatically print coupons when one is removed. Manufacturers also sometimes include sticker coupons, known as peelies, on the fronts of products. In addition, most grocery stores give customers printed coupons, called catalinas, with receipts. The coupons typically are customized based on what you buy.

Tip

Take advantage of price matching. Many stores match sale prices advertised by competitors. Simply bring the ad showing the lower price to your preferred store and the cashier should honor the deal.

Automatic rebates: Many stores run weekly promotions that offer a free product, cash or credit if you buy certain items. Tip: Buy a cheap black-and-white laser printer for coupons. It's an invaluable tool and can save couponers hundreds of dollars a year in ink compared with fancier printers. A solid model should cost about $100.

eCoupons: These coupons can be loaded onto a smartphone or store loyalty card. Stores increasingly are using them. Scan your phone or shopper's card at the register, and the qualifying discounts will be deducted from your bill.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.