My Week of Living Coupon to Coupon

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Pinching Pennies, DAY 1

Luck is on my side today—though I haven't adequately prepared for my first day of living frugally, I remember that I have a breakfast bar at my desk that I got on my walk to work the previous week as a promotional giveaway. My lunch is a step up from breakfast that came from a cardboard box in the middle of street—a lunch voucher from a meeting at work buys me two sandwiches, one for today and one for tomorrow's lunch. I'm careful to choose non-soggy ingredients for tomorrow's sandwich. I chug free office coffee all day, but my heart's not in it—I miss my daily Dunkin' Donuts. A date in the evening takes care of dinner, and although I feel rude for not offering to split the check, I couldn't risk being taken up on the offer. Back home, I look through a pile of unopened mail for coupon offers, and grab the supermarket circular out of the local paper. It seems that the old adage about finding things when you're not looking for them doesn't apply to coupons—now that I'm on the lookout, they're everywhere.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Look for deals. They're in your mailbox, your favorite stores, and online—but if you're not looking for them, coupons and deals are easy to miss. Between the "junk" mail I usually throw out without looking at, my local paper, and email offers, I had coupons for everything from grocery shopping and restaurants to haircuts and car tune-ups.

Log on to save—check out four websites that can save you money.
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Pinching Pennies, DAY 2

My breakfast bar and yesterday's sandwich purchase have me covered for the first two meals of the day, and dinner consists of cupcakes and cocktails at a press event which, while not the healthiest choice, was delicious. After getting home, I put my savings-savvy to the test at the supermarket. I walk into the grocery store with a pile of coupons ripped from magazines, my local paper, and the store's circular and stock a basket with fresh peppers, frozen vegetables, frozen chicken, oatmeal, razors, and tampons. Between the coupons, my supermarket's savings card, and discounts on store-brand items, my $27 total drops down to $14. The only items I didn't save on? My cats' preferred canned food. It was between spending an extra 11-cents per can and having my eyes clawed out in the middle of the night, so I sucked it up and got a few cans of Friskies, just enough to keep 'em fat and happy until next week, when they'll hopefully be on sale.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Think small. When it comes to grocery shopping, think one week at a time. Doing one big grocery trip each month can mean missing out on a lot of deals, like the "Reduced for Quick Sale" section in your supermarket, which is full of vegetables three or four days away from being past their prime. Planning on stir-fry for dinner the next couple of nights? Load up on veggies here—I ended up getting a pack of red peppers for 50% off. And make sure you have a savings card for the stores you shop at. You'll get instant savings and you'll get coupons with your receipt for the items you buy often.

It's easy saving green. Click here for 12 tips on saving money on groceries and food.
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Pinching Pennies, DAY 3

After grabbing a hearty portion of oatmeal from Jamba Juice, thanks to my friend Tammy emailing me a coupon, I walk past Dunkin' Donuts on my way to the office. I wonder if they miss me. There's still a bit of a spring in my step though, thanks to free condoms generously up for grabs all over New York City. Who knows when I'll have time to use them though, as my free time is spent hunting for coupons. Later though, instead of cooking dinner at home, I meet a friend over half-priced Applebee's appetizers—he gives me a book of coupons for local stores he got in the mail—and feeling guilty for not ordering food, I give in and ask for quesadillas. My big money-saver today? Remember to buy a monthly bus pass today, something I'm sometimes too forgetful or lazy to do. But extra waiting time on a line of huffy commuters is a small price to pay for the discount I'm getting—a savings of at least $75 a month when I get the monthly ticket instead of paying as I go.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Resist the urge to match your friends meal-for-meal if you're not hungry or strapped for cash. If you must, order an appetizer and save some for the next day—your waiter won't take it personally.

Can your friends affect how you eat..and sabotage your healthy habits? Find out.
Jesse Frohman

Pinching Pennies, DAY 4

I polish off my last free breakfast bar, barely getting it down. If I never have to look at another one of these again, it will be too soon. Lunch today consists of last night's guilt quesadillas (which I couldn't even pick at yesterday, thanks to my cupcake-induced sugar coma) and some veggies from my supermarket trip. I stir-fry more vegetables for dinner, keeping it vegetarian, and cooking up another portion with chicken for lunch tomorrow. I run out of shaving gel but I'm too lazy to look for coupons or sales, so I use a favorite stand-in, hair conditioner, which I'm convinced actually makes for a closer shave.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Replace meat with an extra serving of greens to save some green—go vegetarian for a few meals every week. Stock up on your favorite veggies, and experiment with different recipes and seasonings.

Find out how you can save money and trim your waistline at the same time.
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Pinching Pennies, DAY 5

This morning I learn that, lo and behold, store-brand oatmeal tastes no worse than the brand I've been buying for years. In fact, it's even better, because it's sprinkled with the sweet taste of savings success. After work, I meet up with my friend Elena for drinks and dinner, which can easily set me back $50. This time, I ask around for good deals, and my boss recommends a local bar with $7 pitchers and all-you-can-eat free hot dogs (I'll spare you the details of the extent to which I took advantage of that deal).
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TRY THIS TODAY

Before going out, do an online search for deals. You'll find everything from daily specials and free food to specific days of the week and one-off promotions with offers of cheap (or free) drinks, food, and cover charges.
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Pinching Pennies, DAY 6

Waking up late for a conference, I eat a few spoons of oatmeal in the morning and leave for the day without brown-bagging a lunch. I have coupon burnout and instead of worrying about it, I just figure I'll move up my dinner plans. But when I remind my friend that I only have coupons for a handful of local restaurants, he texts me back, "This is a pain in the ass. Let's do it another night." Luckily, complimentary bagels at the conference and a friend's leftover Chinese food save the day. When I get home, I spot an old gift card in my wallet that I haven't used in a year and put it up for a trade on CardAvenue.com.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Trade up. Look in your wallet—do you have gift cards in there that haven't seen the light of day in the past year? Consumer Reports found that 27% of people who received gift cards during the 2006 holiday season hadn't used one or more of them nearly a year later. The offending card in my wallet? American Apparel, which had been sitting in my wallet since a brief spandex phase a year ago. If you've got a gift card you haven't been able to put to use in six months, it's safe to say that you can part with it. So do what I did and log on to a gift card trade site like Card Avenue or Swapagift.com and trade cards with others in the same boat. A week later, I had a gift card to Victoria's Secret, and someone out there is enjoying the gold llame unitard of their dreams.
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Pinching Pennies, DAY 7

I wake up in time for an early lunch and half-heartedly pick at the last of my groceries from the start of the week. I'm ready to sell my soul for a manicure, but the salon coupons I have are only for haircuts or are for salons so far away that the money I would spend on gas would dwarf any cash saved. But I lapsed back into my nail-biting habit this week (probably from the stress of thinking about coupons 24/7), and I need a professional to make them look halfway decent. Feeling bold, I head to my local nail salon and ask if they offer discounts to new customers. The two employees at the front desk exchange a look that make it clear they don't—but after an awkward silence, they nod at each other and offer 20% off. Pleased with myself, I take my nails out to dinner with a friend to celebrate, coupon book in hand. 15%-off Pad Thai never tasted so good.
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TRY THIS TODAY

Ask and you might receive. It won't always work, but sometimes all you have to do is ask nicely for a discount to get one. You won't be the first person to do so and you won't be the last, and you might be pleasantly surprised by the answer.

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Radu Razvan
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