Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living Happily on a Shoestring: Free and Extremely Useful Online Couponing 101 Class

by Christine Wilkinson

I am excited to share with you a free online “How to Coupon Effectively” class. It is offered by professional shopper and blogger extraordinaire, Julia Wessels. If you’ve been following my column, you know that my husband and I are doing our best to watch our pennies and shed our debt. After viewing this online couponing class, though, I felt like an utter failure!

This woman is a hard-core, take-no-prisoners professional! She actually makes money on many of her "purchases." It’s fascinating to watch.

So, it’s back to the drawing board for me to see if I can actually do even better with my shopping/couponing. I’d say that between consistently shopping sales and using coupons I’ve cut our costs anywhere from 25% to 35%. Julia from Frugal Find would find that chump’s change!

The only issue I have with this very helpful homemade video is that is seems that Julie is buying things simply because they are on sale and not because She Needs Them. That’s not her problem; it just doesn’t mesh with our minimalist, Needs versus Wants, Commando Financial Warfare (CFW) strategy. (I was, though, seriously impressed with the way she housed her massive collection of makeup deals in a jam-packed, over-the-door shoe rack – almost all of it purchased for nothing!)


I want to go back and revisit an earlier post over whether contact lenses are a Want or a Need. I have a good friend who believes that, when confronted with difficult decisions, one should literally throw the question out to the Universe. According to her reasoning, the Universe in turn ponders it for you for a while and then throws you a sign. The trick, of course, is being adroit enough to see the sign when it comes your way. (I’m not as New-Agey as she, but I’ll try anything these days as long as it's free)

My sign arrived this week in the form of a coupon in the mail from It offered 10% off and free shipping. I normally buy my contacts from Costco where the price is hard to beat (about $22 per box). I did some digging. First, I went to, a site that lets you shop hundreds of stores while getting cash rebates, and found that, yes indeed, participates with FW and offers 5% cash rebate on all purchases.

Great! That’s an automatic 5% discount. Next, I went through the magical portal to find a better deal for first time buyers – 20% off and free shipping (enter NEW20VISION as the promo code). I did hit an unfortunate snafu, though, as the company didn’t “see” me as a first time buyer because I'm already a customer of, its parent company.

This involved having to call customer service, which actually worked in my favor. I purchased eight boxes in order to get the bulk rate (which took $31 off my total). My new sum came to $186 (of which I will get roughly $9 back through FatWallet). Then, the 20% was taken off manually on Vision Direct’s end as a refund, so my final total came to around $150.

Therefore, I spent about $18 per box, got free shipping and added $9 more to my growing FW account. If I did the math right, with all savings factored in, I saved about 24%. I have learned over the past few months that there is always a way to find significant savings; it just involves patience and grit.

Luckily, it turns out that the Universe doesn’t want me to look like Mr. Magoo any more than I do!

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