I am always looking for ways to simplify everyday tasks and errands.
I've noticed recently that grocery stores are offering more services at lower prices than traditional outlets and are adding non-grocery services, so that I can accomplish several errands on one shopping trip.
Here are some of the "surprising bargains" I've seen:
Online photo development services:
Although grocery and drugstores have offered photo development services for years, many now offer online services just like national sites like Shutterfly and Snapfish.
Although these sites offer very low print costs, the shipping cost can quickly raise the average cost. You also have to wat to receive them and expedited shipping costs can be very high.
Many grocery store websites now have photo development sections that allow you to upload prints, order exactly what you need, and then pick your photos up at your local store on your next shopping trip. Not only do you get a low price, but you also avoid shipping charges and get them almost immediately.
If you sign up for your store's email newsletter you may even get special coupons and deals. A few weeks ago I received an email offer from Walgreens for a free 8 by 10 print. I immediately uploaded a photo of my children, printed the coupon, picked the free $2.99 print up at the store later that day, bought an inexpensive frame and had an instant gift for their grandfather!
Browse the photo sections of your grocery stores and drugstores to compare their offering to your current photo development service.
With our local movie theater's prices at $9 per ticket, renting a video for $4 or $5 at the video store is a bargain for our family of four.
However, our local grocery store now offers the RedBox video rental service. We can rent videos there for only $1 per night.
As long as I remember to return the video the next day, we can rent one movie every week and pay less in a month than one rental at the video store. That's a deal!
You can visit www.redbox.com to see if any stores or other locations in your area offer the service. If you sign up for the Redbox email newsletter on the site, you will get one night's free rental immediately.
Many grocery stores now sell a full array of retailer and restaurant gift cards. Not only is it convenient to be able to buy your gifts in one place, it may also save you money to buy gift cards for your own spending at the grocery store.
Some grocery stores have discount programs based on total store spending, so buying gift cards for your own spending at retailers and restaurants may increase the discounts earned.
Many stores offer discounts at their own fuel centers, such as 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 in store spending.
Discounted and free prescriptions:
Many grocery stores have come out with discounted generic prescription programs in response to the $4 per 30-day prescription program featured at Wal-Mart. Stores like Meijer and Publix are topping Wal-Mart's offer by giving free supplies of common antibiotics.
If your grocery store does not advertise a discounted generic prescription program, be sure to ask the pharmacist if they match Wal-Mart's program. They probably will.
Free change-counting service:
You may have lots of spare change around your house, but don't have the time to count and sort it. According to Coinstar.com, the average household has $90 in spare change just sitting around. Coinstar change counting machines at grocery stores are convenient, but will charge a 9% service charge.
However, if you elect to get your "money" in the form of a retailer gift certificate, you can avoid the 9% service charge. Participating retailers include Starbucks, Amazon.com, JC Penney, Circuit City, iTunes, Pier 1, Old Navy, Cabela's, Disneyshopping.com, Hollywood Video, AMC theaters, Linens 'n Things, Timberland, Eddie Bauer and KB Toys.
Gas up at fuel centers:
If your store has a fuel center, you can really save. The average cost per gallon at supermarket fuel centers tends to be lower than the average market cost. Combine that price with fuel discounts earned on grocery purchases to save the most.
Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABCNews.com. You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her website at www.couponmom.com