Feeling the need to hunker down and save some money? Then fire up your computer.
Fifty cents here, $5 there — it will quickly add up.
Coupons are like money if you're smart about using them. And as coupons have proliferated on the Internet, shoppers' choices have expanded. You don't have to wait for a $1 coupon for your favorite brand of diapers to show up, by chance, in the newspaper. You might find it online.
But saving money online isn't just about coupons — it's about finding the best deals and combining those with coupons.
Here are some starter ideas:
• At http://www.commissaries.com">http://www.commissaries.com, authorized commissary shoppers can find prices of items on sale with extra savings at their local commissary, a new feature as of July 8. Click "Shopping" on the bar across the top, then "Savings Aisle." After you enter your log-in information, choose your store from the drop-down menu, and choose whether you want to view all savings or one category.
You'll see the name of the item; the brand name; the unit of measure for the product (i.e., a 14.5-ounce package of cereal); the percentage off the regular price; and the retail price.
• At http://www.groceryguide.com">http://www.groceryguide.com, plug in your ZIP code and pick a civilian grocery store from the pull-down menu, and the Web site will display the store's specials. Compare with commissary specials.
I compared the sale price for a brand of fabric softener. In the commissary, a 120-count box was on sale for $3.99; in the civilian store, a 240-count box was on sale for $8.99. The commissary sale price is cheaper because I could buy two 120-count boxes, or 240 sheets, for $7.98 — a buck cheaper than the local store.
But a coupon might make the difference there, depending on the specifics of the offer.
• Some Web sites to look for coupons: http://www.coupons.com">http://www.coupons.com, http://www.mycoupons.com">http://www.mycoupons.com, http://www.coolsavings.com">http://www.coolsavings.com and http://www.couponmom.com">http://www.couponmom.com. Also, at http://www.commissaries.com">http://www.commissaries.com, click on "Links" for some Internet coupon possibilities. And you can check company Web sites for manufacturers' coupons.
• Coupons aren't just for groceries. Check out http://www.couponcabin.com">http://www.couponcabin.com. If you type "restaurants" in the search function, you'll see offers for restaurants. Click on an offer, and it will take you to the Web site, where you can find offers available in your area.
Want to find the best deal on clothes at your favorite retailer? Browse that store's Web site to find a deal. Then go back to http://www.couponcabin.com">http://www.couponcabin.com, type in the retailer and click the coupon you want to use. It will take you back to that retailer's site with the coupon. Sometimes it will list a discount code on the site.
• The military exchange online catalog has ongoing specials, and each exchange system has its own specials listed on their Web sites at http://www.aafes.com">http://www.aafes.com; http://www.usmc-mccs.org">http://www.usmc-mccs.org; http://www.navy-nex.com">http://www.navy-nex.com; and http://www.cg-exchange.com">http://www.cg-exchange.com. You also can sign up to get information about sales at the exchanges' Web sites.
Remember to use only coupons for items that you'd normally buy. And do price comparisons to make sure that another product that would work just as well isn't cheaper without a coupon.
Print coupons only from the brand Web site of the product or from coupon sites you trust. You should never see the coupon on your screen — only an offer to print it. Legitimate coupons require special software to print proper bar codes and limit the number of prints of each coupon.
Finally, never pay for a coupon, and make sure the coupon has not expired.
AAFES ‘tax holiday' savings
Army and Air Force Exchange Service stores in states with "tax holidays" — often geared to help families with back-to-school purchases — will match local sales tax percentage discounts during these times, by category.
AAFES stores in Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C., will effectively double the exchange's tax-free benefit by offering an additional percentage off AAFES prices, equivalent to the local sales tax rate.
Discover rewards on base
Discover Financial Services has announced it will give double cash-back bonus points or double rewards miles to people who use their Discover cards on military installations through Labor Day.
Double rewards will be given automatically on up to $1,000 in on-base purchases. A cash-back bonus normally is 1 percent, so 2 percent on $1,000 would be $20. The rewards miles will be two miles per $1 spent.
Remember to pay off the bill for your purchases at the end of the month to avoid paying interest.