The Savings Mom, Stephanie Nelson, answers reader questions about saving big bucks with coupons.
Question: A friend sent me the link www.anysoldier.com. A person can go on this site and find actual letters written by the soldiers requesting many things. Most of them want toiletries because their small PXs (stores) are always running out. I thought maybe someone could use coupons to help send them badly needed items.
-- Rebecca Ewing, Ruidoso, N.M.
Answer: Thank you for letting me know about this great Web site. I added a link to www.anysoldier.com to the "Help Others Easily" section of my Web site www.savingsmom.com.
One family started anysoldier.com in August 2003, and it has grown to serve more than 108,000 military contacts stationed in 58 states and countries.
The site has a very detailed "Frequently Asked Questions" page to help you understand how to use it and how to help soldiers with the site's information. Here are some of the basics:
Select one or more soldiers from the "Where to Send" page. Your package will get in to the hands of soldiers who don't get much or little mail.
The site offers complete lists of various personal care items, food, reading materials, exercise videos and many other common items that are in short supply in the soldiers' various units.
You can enter an item name in the search box, and you will get a list of soldiers who have specifically listed that item on their request list.
For example, I entered the word "shampoo," because it is free with a coupon at my store this week. In less than a second I got a list of 625 military contacts that need shampoo. I also tried the word "bar" because several brands of nutrition and energy bars are free with a coupon at the same store, and I got a list of 624 contacts that had requested power bars, energy bars and granola bars, for example. I found that entering just one general word ("bar") as compared to "nutrition bar" helped find the most contacts. I found a high number of requests for many other "coupon-able" bargains, including toothbrushes, pudding cups, toothpaste, canned soups and many more items that any coupon user could get for only pennies.
The No. 1 item needed by soldiers is also the least expensive -- personal letters. The site suggests including your e-mail address if you want to correspond with a soldier.
One of the best features of anysoldier.com is its contact list is extremely dynamic. Soldiers e-mail messages to the site that are posted for anyone to read. The messages from the soldiers are heartfelt and enlightening. Reading the messages made me marvel that even though these wonderful soldiers are doing so much for our country, they are thankful for our small efforts. One soldier posted the following message: "We have received mail from individuals, families, businesses, church groups, volunteer groups, hospitals and schools. This has confirmed to us what we already knew: Americans are the most generous, giving, and thoughtful people in the world."
As I've said before, 99 percent of Sunday grocery coupons are thrown away, but every week there seems to be at least one item at each store that is free, or practically free, with a coupon. The national drugstore chains are also a great source of items that soldiers need. The Savings Mom Web site lists these kinds of deals for CVS and Walgreens, for example, to make it easy for anyone to take advantage of these coupon deals.
You may also want to start a collection box for Sunday newspaper circulars at your church, school, exercise club or workplace so that you (or a team of shoppers) have more than enough coupons to buy dozens of "free" items for our soldiers.