Review: How to Shop for Free

How to Shop for Free by Kathy Spencer: NOOK Book CoverTitle: How to Shop for Free: shopping secrets for smart women who love to get something for nothing

By: Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Copyright Date: 2010

# of Pages: 185 (Nook edition)

Reason for Reading:  Tight budget, plus I’ve always been interested to see how those women who can buy 3 carts of groceries for $6.81 out of pocket actually manage to do it. So curiosity. That money that I spend for cleaning products and food and clothes? I’d love to be able to divert that money to paying off credit cards, paying off the car, paying off the house, saving up for a nicer car, larger home, etc.

Rating: A

I’ve made the point that I’m not a hoarder, yet I’ve spent the past eleven chapters explaining to you how to stockpile everything from baby wipes to Easter baskets, lipstick to cashmere sweaters . . . Given that, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if at times throughout this book you found yourself thinking: This woman is beyond excessive. She amasses more stuff than she could ever possibly use. That’s a fair criticism, and, in fact, you’re right on the money. I do load my shopping cart with more than I need, which is why I give so much of it away. Why do I take it in the first place if I don’t need it? The answer is very simple: Someone else does.

Spencer goes into details about how to work coupons, store sales, loyalty cards, rebates, etc., in a way that, over time, will get you to where you’re one of those super shoppers who is able to completely stock your house with spending little to no output in cash. Don’t think it comes free, though–you will spend several hours a week. Does your time make up for the cash you save? You’ll have to figure that out.

What I liked:  I like that Spencer tells me how to do it.  I also like that she tells me what not to do and why. She’s very clear about how couponing, for example, works for the store as well as for you, so you don’t have to feel guilty at getting so much for so little. You’re not ripping off the store that way. Trust me–if the stores were losing money, they wouldn’t be participating in coupons.  I also very much liked that she was clear about how certain couponing methods are in fact fraud, and why you shouldn’t do it. Apparently there are many more ways to defraud the stores than I’ve ever imagined, at least, and while she doesn’t go into detail about how to do it, she does tell us the grave results of such actions.  I also like that she gives you brief assignments to help you ease your way into the game. She doesn’t give you false expectations (i.e., the first time I try doing this I’ll really save money). She helps you understand how the process builds upon itself as you put in the time and effort and gain the knowledge of how to do it.

The thing that I like most of all is her “pay it forward” philosophy.  She doesn’t hoard excess food/clothing/cleansers, etc.  She passes things on to people in need.  I really like that. Sometimes I want to make donations but I don’t have the cash. If I can learn how to fill up my trunk with tangible items that would be of use to others (say, the women’s shelter, homeless shelters, families with unemployment or medical issues that are causing a lot of distress) and pass it on. I may not have enough cash to make a difference, but if spending three hours a week will give me things that I can share with others, I’m all over that.

I am already starting to take some of her advice, and I’m very eager to see how I can do this.

EDITED to add:

Yesterday (May 17th), I made my first shopping trip, using coupons, and the CVS ad from the Sunday paper. Here’s how it worked out:

Virtually everything I bought was either on sale and/or was buy-one/get-one.  I had coupons for several of the items; and the others were on sale. I also had a coupon for 25% off my entire purchase, excluding the sale items.  I got Puffs tissue, 2 3-packs of Orbit gum, 2 bags of Dove chocolates (one of which had an extra 25% in the bag), L’oreal concealer & eye shadow, 3 bottles of Nivea lotions. I had $8 in coupons, and paid, out of pocket, $49.38.  I received $18 in Extrabucks, giving me a net total of $31.38 out of pocket.

According to the program, then, the next time I go shopping at CVS, I’ll use the Extrabucks and coupons combined with sales and Extrabucks offers, which will keep bringing my total out of pocket down until I’m at the point that the Extrabucks will pay for everything.  However, I’m not shopping for a large household, so I may never get down to Spencer’s superlative shopping. But I felt great when I sat down last night to check how I did.

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About a thinker

I am. And today, that's good enough.
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4 Responses to Review: How to Shop for Free

  1. Margot says:

    I like what you’ve said about this book and your recent field trip testing out the principles. I know that couponing can be a very good thing but I also know it takes time to work that system. What is new to me are the systems you are describing that you found at CVS and other stores. I need to read this book and update my shopping skills.

  2. izzybella says:

    See, I think I might be too lazy for this type of shopping. I think going the day after Thanksgiving to Target is about the epoch of my money-saving skills. Or lack thereof.

  3. jehara says:

    I totally suck at this kind of shopping. Sometimes I get coupons from Target for things I will actually buy, but half the time I forget to bring them along the next time I go to market. I do save a lot at Borders though using the coupons I get in my email. I do get extrabucks from CVS semi-regularly due to my eighty dollar prescription each month. Other than that couponning is too much work for me. However, I think it is awesome that so many people can save a lot of money with this method. I’m just too lazy to do it.

  4. stacybuckeye says:

    I like your/the author’s idea to give away the excess to those who need it. What a great was to give to charity when you don’t have the cash. I’m not sure I have the time to do the thing right now, but I think I need to check out the book for helpful hints. Thanks for updating us 🙂

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