I hated shopping as a kid. It was so boring from beginning to end! But I learned which stores would offer me the greatest rewards-the ones that gave out stickers! I loved stickers. Usually we got the S&H (Sperry & Hutchinson) Green Stamps from the supermarket, but you could obtain them at gas stations and some other stores. Shoppers "filled in" the free booklets that came with the stamps by affixing the stamps to the pages.
The adult method of filling in the booklets is to wet the gummed backs of the sheet of stamps with tap water, or use a sponge, then stick the entire sheet on the page. Kids don't employ this method; it's too simple, too quick, and not as much fun. My method was to rip every single stamp from the sheet, lick the backs of each one, line each stamp up on the outlined boxes one-by-one, and stick them on one at a time. This was a rewarding activity. Literally.
The Green Stamp system, started in 1896, was one of the first customer-loyalty programs. The company provided consumers with a 24-page booklet wherein each page was worth 50 points. A book was filled with 1,200 points that could be exchanged for various household items, like coffee pots, lawn chairs, and dishes. At the bottom of each page were sketches of suggested items, but there was also a store catalog filled with goodies. The point value to redeem the item was posted next to the picture.
As the popularity of the S&H Green Stamps dwindled to where only about 100 stores were giving out the stamps, the company changed to "greenpoints" rewards. Instead of stamps, consumers now receive rewards points for online purchases. Check out www.greenpoints.com to find out how this works.
Don't despair if you still have the stamps. You can trade them in for cash or products. A completed booklet, or 1,200 stamps, is worth $1.20. If you need a catalog, call 800-435-5674. If you need more stamps, negotiate for them on eBay.
Using stamps, coins, and coupons are a few of the ways to shave off a few bucks from the bottom line. Several online sites offer information as well as free coupons to help reduce costs.
• The Coupon Clippers (http://thecouponclippers.com) claims to be "the nation's largest online grocery coupon clipping service, offering more than a million national-brand coupons" including restaurant coupons. With careful planning, the Clippers says that you can save 20 to 30 percent on your weekly grocery bill and, if you can double your coupons, your savings could be as much as 40 to 60 percent.
• ShopatHome offers free grocery, promotional, and restaurant coupons. This site offers a free Coupon Toolbar with access to coupons available in your local area. You simply print the coupons you want to use, or use them for online purchases (www.shopathome.com).
• "Dedicated to helping you save," the CouponClippingMom (http://couponclippingmom.com/) offers coupons, freebies, and other deals at places like Walgreens and Target. I think I'll print the coupon for $1 citronella candles and take it to Walmart, like Mom suggests, and get the candles free. Take that, mosquitoes!
• A quick read through Smart Money's online article on the five best coupon-clipping websites indicate that these sites have something in common: timely coupons on deals you actually want, an easy-to-use format, a reliable social network of other shoppers and their opinions on what works, deals specific to your local area, and a fresh update in an email newsletter on what's hot now. The article cautions the reader that some retailers won't accept Internet coupons, so call before you clip.
And don't forget to check out the paper! I treated myself to some half-off therapy just the other day, and it was well worth it.
Naomi Migliacci is an international consultant who enjoys traveling and adventure. She collects friends and bracelets wherever she goes. She lives in Guilford.