Sign up for the free loyalty cards from your local grocery stores and pharmacies if they offer them. They cost you nothing (I don’t even get junk mail from them!) and give you exclusive discounts and/or cash back. Those offers marked by signs hanging under products throughout the store (clearance items, discounts, two-for-one deals, BOGOs, etc.) are usually only available when you use the store card.
I, for example, have a Safeway and a CVS card for these purposes. One cool feature of the Safeway Club Card is that when you use it, the receipt tells you how much you saved in your purchase through their deals and other coupons. I saved 25% on my last purchase! Of course, Safeway cashiers are usually nice enough to ring up a default Safeway card for you if you don’t have/forgot your own. But (1) you can’t count on them to do that every time and (2) that will keep you from stocking up on points from affiliated programs such as United Mileage Plus or UPromise cash for college (more on that in a future post).
CVS’s ExtraCare card, on the other hand, gives “Extra Bucks” that may be used for any purchase at CVS. Every 3 months you get Extra Bucks equivalent to 2% of your purchases in the previous quarter, and the weekly specials usually feature several products that also come with Extra Bucks (if you buy the product, you get Extra Bucks that can be used on your next CVS purchase). A few weeks back, for instance, I bought three boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch for $10 and got $5 Extra Bucks. I used that on my next purchase. I don’t buy my prescriptions at CVS, but its website also says that you can get 1 Extra Buck for every 2 prescriptions purchased in-store.
The main caveat of CVS’s Extra Bucks is that you really have to remember to use them if you want to transform your everyday purchases into good deals, as they tend to expire after 2 or 3 weeks. Also, you need to present your ExtraCare card in order to use the Extra Bucks, but that should not be a problem since you should have it on you anyway (i.e., on your keychain) for accumulating all those Extra Bucks.
You probably shop at groceries and pharmacies more frequently than at most other types of stores, and most likely have your local favorite. If it’s offered, make sure you get and use their loyalty card – claim the chance to be rewarded for helping them stay in business!