Have a question for our experts? This line is open until Friday, May 13th. Our expert will then answer the top questions and we’ll post their answers right here and on our Facebook page.

SamiCone hdshot Jun2010Q: I used to watch the grocery store ads and drive around to get the best deals. Now with the price of gas so high, not to mention the pollution to our environment, it doesn’t seem to make sense to drive 5 miles to save $.50. Even combining trips doesn’t always work if I am not going to be near the store. Am I better off shopping at my neighborhood store and paying more than burning expensive gas?


A: I agree, the last thing you want to do is spend $10 on gas driving around to get a free pack of gum. However, if you plan out your trips, I think it makes sense to shop where you can get the best deal. Now that doesn’t mean driving somewhere just to get salad dressing for free that you wouldn’t normally buy anyway if it wasn’t free. What I do mean is that you may want to evaluate the sales, and pick different stores to shop at different weeks based on where you can get a better value for your money ON THE FOOD & GROCERIES YOU NEED that week. If you can save 60-90% off your staple items when you combine a good sale with coupons and you can grab more than one deal, then it’s definitely worth your time and gas. Happy shopping!

Q: How I can save money on summer camps. I’m a single mom working full time, and has been apply for scholarship for summer program still they not accept me. Any other suggestions?


A: Yes, summer camps can be VERY expensive, especially when you’re doing all you can just to make ends meet week to week! My first advice would be to apply for scholarships or speak to the directors directly about your situation (which it sounds like you’re doing already). However, make sure to offer something in return…either helping to spread the word around town or through social media, volunteering there for a day, etc.

If that still doesn’t help, check out the summer camps through the YMCA – they often charge for events based on financial need and I’ve heard great things about their Camp!

Q: I need to save money – where should I start?


A: Too many people don’t save money because they don’t know where to start! Pick one grocery or drug store, start pulling coupons for all your pantry items or just cut back on eating out. If nothing else, start keeping track of your spending so you know where your money is going each month.

Q: I’ve heard the key to couponing is to ‘stockpile’ – how do I do that?


A: The big jackpot when it comes to couponing is to wait for a sale, match-up store coupons with manufacturer coupons and then stock up! Don’t just buy 1 or 2 of the item, but enough to get you through the next 2-3 months until the item will most likely be on sale again.

Q: Drugstores seem more expensive, can you shop there and save?


A: Generally speaking, drugstores are more expensive. But if you apply the same saving technique that you use at the grocery store (wait for a sale then pair with coupons), you can get some great freebies and deals. The first step is to sign up for their reward cards. They cost nothing to receive, but can save you hundreds of dollars a year in special offers & freebies!

Q: How do you afford Christmas & birthday presents?


A: I love online rewards sites like MyPoints.com and Swagbucks.com. MyPoints rewards you by reading and clicking through the emails they send you. Powered by Ask.com & Google, Swagbucks is an online search engine that rewards you with “Swagbucks” for your searches. Collect bucks to redeem for a variety of gift cards and experiences (my fav is their Amazon gift cards!)

Q: What do you do with all your coupons?


A: Organize! You can’t use a coupon if you don’t know where it is. Make your system work for you: either clip and keep them on you or keep Sunday coupon inserts whole in a file folder at home. It also helps to have a central calendar so you know when offers expire or when free events are taking place. (Google calendar is a great, free online resource).

Q: Are there places to find coupons other than the Sunday newspaper?


The standard Sunday coupon inserts (Smartsource.com & Redplum.com), as well as many others (Coupons.com, Cellfire.com, Upromise.com…) not only offer online coupons so you don’t have to buy the Sunday paper, but will also load them directly onto your store rewards cards!

Q: Is there a fast way to cut my grocery budget?


A: Stop using paper towels! You can spend close to $20 for a package of bulk paper towels at a warehouse club. Instead, start using cloth napkins, towels, sponges and other items that can be washed and re-used. You’ll be surprised at how the savings stack up!

Q: I only have one grocery store in my area. How can I still get good deals?


A: Many stores today allow you to use competitor coupons, or at the very least, offer price-matching. Sign up online for emails from grocery stores across the country and even though they may not be in your area, most local chains will still accept their coupons.

Q: My family LOVES to eat out. Is it possible to still enjoy a night out on a budget?


A: Everyone wonders how we can still eat out on a budget. It’s simple: get a $25 gift certificate at Restaurant.com for only $2! They are constantly featuring new eateries as well as local favorites. (ed note: just be sure to tip your server for the full amount of purchase!)

Even when you’re traveling, you can go online and look for restaurant deals in the city you’ll be traveling to. Our other favorite tip is to enjoy lunch out instead of dinner when we can.Restaurant.com

Q: What is the best way to save money and lose weight?


A: Reduce your portions! Not only will your health improve, but so will your budget. Start reducing the amount you eat, but also the amount you cook with. For example: use ¾ lb ground beef when the recipe calls for 1 lb or use halve the amount of sugar in a recipe. Another great way to stretch your meat dollar is to add beans instead of the full amount of meat.

Q: What’s your best tip for saving on travel?


A: Travel in the off season. This is especially true for our favorite destination, Disney World, but also holds true for most vacation spots. When you travel in the off-season, you’ll not only get the best deals, but enjoy fewer crowds and better availability when it comes to rooms and amenities.