How to Coupon

CIC Can Help You Spot Fake Coupons

Posted on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Online CouponIs the awesome coupon that you saw on Facebook too good to be true? Have you ever visited a random website and found a questionable advertisement about coupons? It can be difficult to sort out the valid coupons from the scams. The CIC can help you spot fake coupons.

What is the CIC?
CIC stands for Coupon Information Center. It is a not-for-profit association of consumer product manufacturers who are dedicated to fighting coupon misredemption and fraud. The CIC has worked with Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials on coupon fraud cases since 1986.

Counterfeit Coupons
The CIC informs consumers about the counterfeit coupons that are being circulated. There is a section on their main page that says “Counterfeit Coupon Alert”. It will show two of the most recently reported fraudulent coupons (with links that will give you more information about them). Next time you see a questionable coupon on Facebook, or somewhere else, visit the CIC website and check to see if it has been reported.

The CIC is On Twitter
Do you use Twitter? Follow @CIC_HQ. It is the Twitter account of the Coupon Information Institute. They post tweets with information about the counterfeit coupons as they become aware of them. In addition, they also tweet links to articles about situations where coupon fraud has occurred. The information they post can help you to avoid fake coupons.

Report Coupon Fraud
Are you a victim of coupon counterfeits? The CIC has information about how to file a complaint with the United States Postal Service. The CIC points out what kind of information you need to have in order to report mail crime. Make sure to keep all original documents, including emails, that are related to your complaint.

Considerate Couponing
The CIC has put together a helpful list called “Considerate Couponing”. It lets consumers know what the best practices are for using coupons. It starts with the basics, which can be very helpful for people who are brand new to couponing.

The list points out some practices that are prohibited. It is illegal to buy or sell coupons. It is also against the law to photocopy coupons. People who steal newspapers, in order to get extra coupons, are breaking the law.

What about “dumpster diving”? Some people choose to dig around in dumpsters in the hopes of finding newspaper inserts that contain coupons. This practice is controversial. The CIC points out that if the dumpster is located on private property, a person could be arrested for trespassing.

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Tips to Save Money on School Supplies

Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 2015 at 5:59 pm
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Back to school shopping can get expensive, especially for families with more than one child.  Try these tips to save money on school supplies.The new school year will start at the end of August or in early September, depending on where you live. Is your budget ready for all the back to school shopping? It can get costly, especially for families that have more than one child. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to save money on school supplies.

Reuse Last Year’s Supplies
Before you start shopping, take a look and see what school supplies you already have at home. Your kids may be able to reuse some of the school supplies that you purchased last year.

Rulers, whether wooden or plastic, will hold up for more than one school year. Plastic pencil holders are durable enough to last multiple school years. Gather up all the pencils and pens that came home with your child at the end of the previous school year.

Your child’s lunch box (or lunch bag) might be in good enough shape to use again. Check your child’s backpack carefully. If you don’t see any fraying at the shoulders, and there are no holes in the bottom, it can be reused.

Buy Two Pairs of Shoes
It might sound counter-intuitive to buy an extra pair of gym shoes for your child right at the start of the school year. One pair would cost less than two pairs after all. Keep in mind that your kids are still growing. Many parents find that their child has outgrown his or her gym shoes about halfway through the school year.

Buying two pairs of shoes now, while they are on sale, saves you the expense of having to buy another pair a few months from now at full price. Buy one pair that fits your child’s feet today. Buy one more pair the next size up.

Buy One Get One Free
Your child’s school supply list might say that they need only one package of certain items. Eventually, that package of paper, the pack of pencils, and the glue sticks, will run out. Consider purchasing consumable school supplies from stores that have a “BOGO” on them. Buy one for your kid to take to school. Get a free one for your kid to take to school after that first one runs out.

Shop Year Round for School Supplies
One way to save money on the pile of school supplies your child needs at the start of the school year is to stock up on them year round. Take advantage of sales on pens, pencils, and paper that you see during the school year. Start a stock pile of school supplies that you got on sale. Next year, pull from that stock pile and make your back to school shopping less expensive.

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National School Lunch Program Might Help Your Kids

Posted on Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Is your family food insecure?  The National School Lunch Program can help by providing free or reduced lunches to your children.The start of a brand new school year comes with a lot of expensive purchases. Families who are low-income might struggle to provide their child with a sack lunch five days a week. The National School Lunch Program might be able to help your kids by providing them with a healthy lunch at school.

The United States Department of Agriculture found that both children and adults were food insecure in 9.9% of households with children (in 2013). That comes to 3.8 million households.

The World Health Organization states that food security is built on three pillars. One is food availability, which means a person is getting a sufficient quantity of food on a consistent basis. Another is food access, which means a person has sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. The third pillar is food use, which has to do using food based on a basic knowledge of nutrition and care as well as adequate access to water and sanitation.

Those who lack even one of those three pillars are food insecure. They are not able to consistently obtain the nutritious food that their body needs. The National School Lunch Program can help prevent food insecurity by providing a nutritious lunch to children who come from low-income families.

Any child can purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program. Children who come from families who have an income of at or below 130% of the national poverty level are eligible for free meals. Children who come from families with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. Students in that group can be charged no more than 40 cents for their meal.

Do you think your family fits into those eligibility requirements? If so, you can apply to have your child be part of the National School Lunch Program. Schools send school meal applications home with students at the beginning of each school year. It is also possible to apply later in the school year.

Parents can ask someone at their child’s school for an application for the National School Lunch Program. Sometimes, schools will offer parents information about the free and reduced lunch program at the time that they sign their child up for school.

If your family is already qualified for other types of public assistance, it is possible that your children may already qualify for the National School Lunch Program. Families that are receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits need to be aware that their children already qualify of the National School Lunch Program. Parents who are eligible for unemployment compensation may also find that their children qualify for free or reduced lunches.

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Free Kids Events in August

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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crayonsThe new school year will begin towards the end of August. What are you going to do to keep your kids busy until then? Bring them to a free kids building, crafting, or other fun event. There are plenty of them happening in various chain stores. Find one near you!

LEGO Stores
LEGO offers a free monthly mini model building event for kids ages 6-14. Parents need to register their kids if they would like them to attend the event.

August 4 or 5, 2015: Kangaroo Mini Model Build – Kids will put together a mini model of a kangaroo.

Pottery Barn Kids
Pottery Barn Kids has story time events that take place on Tuesdays from 11:00 to 11:30 in the morning. Kids that become a book club member receive a special gift after they attend five story times.

Pottery Barn Kids is also holding a special event called “First Day Photo Booth”. It has already started and will continue through Thursday, August 20, 2015. Gather your kids and have them take a fun “first day of school” photo, complete with props. Share the photo on Instagram with #adventurebegins, and Pottery Barn Kids will donate $1 for every photo shared to the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

Home Depot
Home Depot has free kids workshops where kids can put together a project that they get to keep. They also get a free certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin. Registration is required.

August 1, 2015: Chalkboard Door Hanger – Kids put together a door hanger that has a functional chalkboard on one side.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free kids workshops where kids can build, and keep, a wooden project. Kids also get a free apron, goggles, and a patch. Registration is required.

July 25, 2015: Hawkeye’s Quinjet – Kids will build Hawkeye’s Quinjet. This is part of their “Avengers Assemble” projects.

August 8, 2015:
Hulk’s Tank – Kids will build Hulk’s Tank. This is part of their “Avengers Assemble” projects.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers kids craft events every Saturday for kids ages 3 and up.

August 1, 2015: Friendship Day Keepsake – Kids will decorate two people shapes with tissue paper, yarn, and wiggly eyes.

August 8, 2015: Keeping Cool! Door Hanger – Kids will decorate a paper door hanger that looks like an icy drink. It comes with a sign that says: “Keeping cool in my room.”

August 15, 2015: Summer Breeze Wind Chime – Kids can decorate a wind chime with strings of beads.

August 22, 2015: Animal Antics Paper Pal! – Kids create a paper animal to play with.

August 29, 2015: Bug Buddy – Kids create a bug out of pipe cleaners, puffs, and wiggly eyes.

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Tips for Reducing Coupon Clutter

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 at 3:34 pm
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Are you struggling to cope with your accumulated coupon clutter?  Try some of these tips that will help you stay organized and reduce clutter.Coupons can help you save money on your grocery bill. Collecting coupons can, at times, feel almost addictive. Eventually, you are going to end up with a lot of coupon clutter. You don’t have to let the clutter spread across your home. There are ways to reduce the coupon clutter.

How to Organize Your Coupons

Create a Coupon Binder
Some people, who dabble in couponing, can get by with an envelope of coupons. Those that are edging toward extreme couponing are going to need a coupon binder. You can purchase them from some grocery stores. Or, you can make your own from a three ring binder and several sheets that are designed to hold baseball cards.

After you obtain your coupon binder, the next step is to organize your coupons into it. Remember to periodically check the expiration dates of the coupons and remove the ones that have expired. Take the time to add newly clipped coupons into the binder as soon as possible.

Keep Up With Your Coupons
One thing that helps reduce clutter is routine. Pick a day that you are going to organize your coupons, and set aside a few hours to do it. Get your scissors, and recycle bin, and start clipping the coupons you need. Immediately after that, put those coupons into your coupon binder. Get rid of the coupons that have expired.

This type of routine will reduce coupon clutter because it prevents the papers from piling up. You won’t ever have more than a week’s worth of coupon clutter to sort through, clip, and organize.

Start Using Digital Coupons
The quickest way to reduce coupon clutter is to go digital! Instead of printing out and clipping paper coupons, load them digitally onto your favorite grocery store’s loyalty card. Often, the same coupons are offered in digital and in printable format. In addition, many stores will offer special coupons that are only available digitally.

Some stores have their own apps that help you to save money. These offers can be in the form of coupons or presented as special deals that are only available for people who use the app. Target has one called Cartwheel. Starbucks has one, too. Many grocery stores also have their own app that helps you save money.

Stop Gathering Extra Newspapers
Many extreme couponers get into the habit of collecting extra newspapers. They do this so they can gather more than one copy of a coupon.

Typically, it is the Sunday paper that includes all the coupon inserts. The problem is the newspaper is being delivered daily. All those extra papers can create a lot of clutter. Save money by canceling your extra subscriptions – and reduce coupon clutter at the same time.

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Why You Shouldn’t Push a Cashier to Take a Coupon

Posted on Thursday, July 16th, 2015 at 5:17 pm
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grocery checkout, extreme couponingIt can be frustrating when the cashier at the grocery store refuses to accept one of your coupons. Some people feel embarrassed when their coupon is rejected. Others feel the need to make a loud fuss in an attempt to push the cashier into accepting that coupon. There are some very compelling reasons why you shouldn’t do that.

It’s not the cashier’s fault.
In almost every case, it is not the cashier’s fault that he or she cannot accept your coupon. Sometimes, the reason why your coupon was rejected has to do with the store’s coupon policy. The cashier is not the person who made that policy. He or she has no power to change it.

The cashier could get in trouble.
The drawer that the cashier is using will get audited at the end of his or her shift. The purpose is to make sure everything matches up and that the correct amount of money is in the drawer. If your loud insistence pressures a cashier to take a coupon they weren’t supposed to accept – that cashier is going to get in trouble later on that day. Is saving $0.25 really worth the possibility of someone getting fired?

The store could lose money.
When a store accepts a coupon, it is doing so because it can get some money back from the company that created the coupon. The store can send in manufacturer coupons for redemption. This allows the store to give you a discount without having to lose money themselves. If you push a cashier to take a coupon the store cannot redeem, that means the store will lose money.

As I’ve already mentioned, this situation can lead to the cashier being reprimanded or fired. It can also influence a store to create a more restrictive coupon policy. Do you like the store you are shopping at? If so, then you shouldn’t do things that will not only make it lose money but also will make it harder for you to use coupons there in the future.

You could be committing coupon fraud.
Coupon fraud is illegal. You could get into trouble for committing it – and so could your cashier. Trying to use a coupon that you know is expired is an act of coupon fraud. You become aware that your coupon is expired when the cashier informs you about it. Pushing him or her to accept that coupon anyway simply isn’t legal.

People will judge you.
Don’t be the person that makes everyone else’s grocery shopping experience take longer than necessary. The people who are behind you in line want to get their shopping done so they can do other things. They aren’t going to like you if you yell at the cashier and hold up the line.

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Does Kohl’s Cash Confuse You?

Posted on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Kohl'sThere are many different types of coupons that stores offer to customers. Kohl’s uses something called Kohl’s Cash. Does Kohl’s Cash confuse you? A quick review of how Kohl’s Cash works could help you be less confused and a lot more informed about this unique coupon policy.

A man who lived in San Jose, California, was very confused about how Kohl’s Cash worked. The way he calculated how his Kohl’s Cash would affect the total cost of his purchase, and the way the cashier’s register calculated it, didn’t match. The man felt that he ended up paying $6 more than he expected to.

He wasn’t the only Kohl’s customer who was confused by how Kohl’s Cash worked. There was a lawsuit filed about it. In June of 2015, Kohl’s agreed to settle a complaint that alleged that customers in Fresno, Riverside, and Shasta counties, in California, were charged more than prices advertised on store shelves and signs. The lawsuit also alleged that Kohl’s did not adequately disclose information about their Kohl’s Cash program.

The best way to keep up with the rules about Kohl’s Cash is to check the Kohl’s website before you shop at the store. Coupon policies can change, so it helps to make sure you understand it right before you shop.

Kohl’s Cash can be earned by customers who are shopping in Kohl’s stores. It can also be earned at the kiosks or online. Kohl’s Cash is offered during events that run periodically.

Kohl’s Cash is earned on the purchase amount after all applicable discounts are applied and before tax is applied. In short, you have to spend a certain dollar amount – after the coupons and other discounts are deducted from your purchase – in order to earn Kohl’s Cash. Spend less than that amount, and you do not qualify for Kohl’s Cash.

Customers will receive a $10 Kohl’s Cash Coupon for the first $50 in purchases. An additional $10 in value will be added to the coupon for each additional $50 spent in a single transaction. In short, if your total purchase amount (after the coupons and other discounts have been deducted) is $50, you will receive $10 in Kohl’s Cash. If you spend $100 (after the coupons and other discounts have been deducted), you end up with $20 in Kohl’s Cash.

The part that seems to have confused some people is in how the Kohl’s Cash is calculated into the transaction. Kohl’s Cash will be applied prior to percent-off total purchase discounts. Keep that in mind when you try and figure out how much you will save. You should also be aware that Kohl’s Cash has an expiration date on it – and cannot be used after that date has passed.

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Unexpected Side Effects of Extreme Couponing

Posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Extreme couponing can be exciting when you begin.  However, there are some unexpected side effects that you might experience.Extreme couponing became popular around the same time as when there was a TV show about it. It takes a lot of effort to do this type of couponing. The best thing about extreme couponing is that it can, potentially, save your family a lot of money on groceries. On the other hand, there are some unexpected side effects that you need to be aware of.

Disadvantages of Extreme Couponing

No More Free Time
Extreme couponing takes more time than you might expect. You need to find, clip, and organize coupons. Some extreme couponers have so many coupons that they require a three-ring binder, and many plastic inserts designed for baseball cards, to keep track of them all. You must go through all those coupons often and get rid of the ones that have expired.

In addition to the actual collection and organization of coupons, you also need to spend time doing a lot of math. It takes time to figure out which stores have the best deal on what product, and to find out if you have coupons that can make that deal even better. Don’t forget to check your favorite coupon websites for news about great sales.

If all of this sounds exciting and fun to you, that’s great! You’ve found the perfect hobby for yourself. Your free time will be used on it, and you might unexpectedly lose time to do your other hobbies.

Extreme Couponing Fatigue
Some of you might feel exhausted just by reading about all the effort that extreme couponing requires. Even the people who find it fun can get burned out after a while. This is true of any hobby. There are times when you are going to need to set it aside and take a break.

People who have jumped into extreme couponing do not usually expect to experience extreme couponing fatigue. One thing you can do when it hits is stop doing the parts of extreme couponing that make you unhappy or stressed out.

Feeling Like A Hoarder
One immediate issue that comes up with extreme couponing has to do with the bulk shopping it often involves. Where are you going to put all those groceries?

If you haven’t planned ahead, your home could quickly become over cluttered, and you might start to question if you have become a hoarder. You might feel embarrassed to invite people over because you don’t want them to see the state of your house.

One solution to this problem is to donate some of your surplus to a local food bank. Another great idea is to set up some industrial strength shelves in your garage or basement. Set up your stockpile on those shelves. Your kitchen and living room can go back to normal again!

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Beware of Coupons that Sound Too Good to be True

Posted on Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Did you find a coupon on Facebook that sounds too good to be true?  That's a good sign that you should stay away from it so you don't get scammed.Find the best coupons, and you will save the most money, right? It is understandable why people would get excited about a coupon that saves them $100. Coupons like that are too good to be true. Here are some tips about how to avoid getting scammed.

Avoiding Fake Coupons

Recently, there was what appeared to be a deal that would give people a $100 ALDI promo coupon. It said that people could get this $100 coupon if they spent more than $120 and completed two more steps online. It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

This deal was offered on a Facebook page that had the ALDI logo on it. People were asked to give personal details (such as their name, address, and phone number). They were then asked to leave a comment and share the ad on Facebook. People were also asked to sign up for credit cards and other subscriptions on order to qualify for this coupon.

You probably can guess what happened. The $100 coupon never arrived. It was all a scam designed to obtain people’s information for the purpose of identify theft.

How can you avoid being tricked by a coupon that sounds too good to be true? First, you need to realize that just because you see a store’s logo on a Facebook page, that doesn’t mean it really is connected with that store. Anyone can post a logo.

Second, before you give out any personal information, you should check with the store that is supposedly offering the coupon. In this case, people could have called up their local ALDI and asked if they were really giving out coupons that would save people $100. Believe the answer that the store manager gives you.

Third, you could rely on your “gut feeling”. The coupon said it would give people $100 in savings if they spent at least $120. Stores don’t make coupons that result in the store taking such a big loss. If it sounds too good to be true, it is very likely a scam.

Another, similar, scam involved a fake coupon for Kroger. In this case, Kroger posted a warning on their Facebook page about the fake coupon. They made it clear that the coupon was not affiliated with Kroger and tried to warn people against sharing their personal information with whoever was behind the scam.

The Coupon Information Corporation points out some signs of a coupon scam. One question they ask is “Does it sound too good to be true?” If so, then that coupon is a scam and you should stay away from it.

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Free Kids Events in July

Posted on Thursday, June 18th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Fireworks clusterThe kids will be out of school in July and enjoying their summer vacation. It won’t be long before they start complaining that they are bored and need something fun to do. Fortunately, there are plenty of free building, crafting, and other fun events that will take place in stores in July. Your kids can create something and then play with it after the event is over.

Fireworks
The traditional way to celebrate the 4th of July is to go watch a fireworks display. Many places will offer this free of charge. Bring something for the kids to do while they wait for the sun to go down, and don’t forget the bug spray.

The place where you live might have a 4th of July Parade that your family can enjoy. Parades are free to attend. Get there early so you can find a good place to watch it from.

LEGO stores
LEGO stores offer a free monthly mini model build for kids who are between the ages of 6 and 14. The event is offered “while supplies last”.

July 7 or July 8, 2015: Whale Mini Model Build – Kids will build a mini model of a whale.

Home Depot
Home Depot has free workshops for kids on the first Saturday of each month. These event are for kids ages 5 – 12. Kids will receive a certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin. They also get to keep the project they build. Registration is required.

July 4, 2015: Build a Minions Scooter – Kids will build a scooter that has minions riding it.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow has free kid clinics. Children who attend will receive a free apron, goggles, and a patch. They will also get to keep the project that they build. Registration is required.

July 11, 2015: Black Widow’s Sky Cycle – Kids will build Black Widow’s Sky Cycle. This project is part of Lowe’s “Avengers Assemble” inspired projects.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free craft events on Saturdays. These events are for kids ages 3 and up.

July 11, 2015: My Aquarium – Kids will create and decorate an aquarium out of paper plates and art supplies.

July 28, 2015: Jumpin’ Jellyfish – Kids will create a colorful jellyfish from pipe cleaners, a foam bowl, and other art supplies.

July 25, 2015: Stay Cool! Sun Visor – Kids will decorate their own sun visor that they can wear.

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