March 20, 2009 -- Online searches for coupons have shot up 160 percent during the recession, and "Good Morning America" technology contributor Becky Worley offers five great tips that will help you save big with the coupons.
Online Coupons vs. Newspapers and Circulars
A lot of people have thought about clipping coupons, especially in this bad economy -- but they took a stab at it and realized it takes a lot of time.
By using the Web, though, they can dramatically cut down on that time, and still get all the great savings that coupons bring.
You can find coupons for those must-have items that you need all year long in just a few minutes now.
Look for sites that are aggregators, like www.retailmenot.com. On these sites, people find deals for you out of the goodness of their own heart, and they are self-policed so you know the deals are real and good. There are coupons and discount codes, often more than one that can be combined for even greater savings.
The other plus is that the sites are easy to use. I went to www.retailmenot.com, and typed in "diapers." I wanted to find cheap diapers for my baby — and the site came up with a bunch of great deals.
The best was at a site called www.diapers.com, where I went, got a $10 discount for being a first time buyer and found a mail-in rebate for another $14 discount.
Also, I was able to buy $54 worth of Pampers cruisers -- four boxes of 140 diapers and another four boxes of 30 diapers -- for only $30. I saved $24, a huge savings.
How to Find Fresh Deals
In addition to using those sites that aggregate the deals, which are always fresh, you can use Google blogs to find the very best deals.
There's a little drop-down bar on the top tabs on the Google Web site that says "more." That tab has a blogs option, and all you have to do is put the item you're looking for into that tab and you'll find thousands of mom blogs out there filled with coupons. Everyone else is doing the work for you, and it's in real time because the blogs are constantly updated.
Here's a great example of what you can find: I decided to look for toothpaste, found out there were coupons available in a Sunday circular and a mailer that I could get. So, a tube of Colgate toothpaste that would have cost me $3.49 only wound up costing me 24 cents. I saved $2.25.
Printing Out Coupons Without Searching Dozens of Mailers
The best deals are found when you combine what you find on the online coupon sites with the weekly circulars -- and most stores have their weekly newspaper and mailer coupons online now. So you don't need to go get the actual mailer. You just need to know they exist.
I decided to look for cereal, which my family can't get enough off. I printed coupons from coupons.com, used them with coupons from a manufacturer's Web site and looked up the online version of my local circular to find cereal deals. The result was five boxes of cereal for $2 -- two huge boxes of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and two boxes of Cheerios.
There are sites out there now like shopittome.com, which are essentially personal shoppers that comb through sales just for you.
You enter the brands and sizes of clothes and shoes you want, and the site finds them for you.
I looked for my regular sneaker, Saucony running shoes, which normally go for $90 a pair. Shopittome found a pair for $50, a $40 savings and e-mailed me an alert when it found the deal.
"Shopping bots" are comparison sites like pricespider.com that track prices across the Web and track prices over time. So you don't just see what's available today, but get a snapshot over the last year. That way you know the cheapest price an item is likely to go for, and you can tell the site how much you're willing to pay for that particular item.
When the price drops to that level, the site sends you an e-mail. It's a great way to research big ticket items.
I've wanted to buy a slow cooker. The West Bend crock pot I was looking at usually goes for about $68. But I used pricespider.com to look at the price fluctuations over the last year and saw it went as low as $31. I put in that price, got an alert and saved $37 on a pretty expensive item.