By Theresa Shadrix
If you’ve ever thought you were not important, chances are you’ve not had your identity stolen. It’s the one time in your life that you wish no one knew your name…or credit card number, or birth date, or social security number.
Even if identity theft is not the kind of ego boost you want, someone has taken the time to know all about you. Of course it’s in order to buy stuff. Before you can ask yourself, “Why would someone want my identity?” the thief is busy getting a Kitchen Aid blender, an iPAD or an iPhone.
You know, the type of things you would never buy yourself.
Most people don’t think about protecting their identity when looking for a good deal. But, it’s the first step one should take in couponing and saving money. Often we give away sacred information without thinking twice about it. In our homes, we lock up personal data, but the moment we are asked for our personal email address in order to enter a drawing for a free makeover or for a $1 off an item, we lose all of our wits.
Be stingy with your email
You should be a little stingy with your personal or work email. Your SPAM filter will certainly thank you. My recommendation is to create an email account that you only use for couponing, contests, and deals that require you to share contact information. You can get a free email through Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Your username can be your name or you can get creative with a money-saving name.
Don't use your real information
My second recommendation is that you not use your actual birth date. Often times when you print a coupon online you have to register and create an account. This is the one time it is fine to lie about your age. Use your actual month but not the date or year.
Also, when asked for information like your mother’s maiden name, your childhood pet’s name, your favorite of anything, or your high school, by all means feel free to make up something. Not to make you even more paranoid, but in case of a cyber attack, it will harder for the hacker to match up the “cyber” you with the real you.
Write information down and keep in safe place
Now, because you are creating an alter ego, you are going to forget who you are. So, dig around the drawers in your house and find a pen. Then, look under the couch cushions and in the corners of your rooms for a piece of paper. Write down all the data for your “cyber self” on the paper and put it in your safe or in your filing cabinet. Do not write this information on the front of the phone book. You may need it for future reference when you are having an online identity crisis.
Consider PO Box
My third recommendation is that you consider using a post office box for all of your mail. There will be times that you can request free coupons, samples and other goodies but you just are not comfortable using your home address. Sure, it’s an easy find on whitepages.com or many of those “looky who is searching for you” websites, but why not make it as difficult as possible for scammers?
Never give out social security number
One more thing. Never, for any reason, give out your social security number. Along with other personal information, it can be used to apply for credit cards. Trust me when I tell you to protect that number as much as you can.
Many years ago I had my identity stolen because someone had my full name, birth date and social security number. Granted the person was a family member who stole my identity and I only discovered there were several credit cards with massive unpaid bills when my husband and I were trying to buy a car. It was not a minor hassle. The credit card companies required that I file a police report. It was sweet to get a lecture from the police officer on my “turning in” a family member, while my entire credit history was wiped clean and I had to start over. Needless to say, I haven’t been to any family reunions.
The bottom line when you are in couponing and saving money, keep who you are to yourself…or you might have a big identity crisis.
Contact Theresa Shadrix at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Theresa Shadrix
It seems everyone is an expert these days. At least it seems when it comes to coupons. Thanks to the reality TV show on TLC “Extreme Couponing,” it doesn’t seem to take much experience to be an expert. Viewers watch as shoppers collect massive amounts of groceries for mere pennies.
Maybe you are one of them and thought to yourself, “Hey, I can do that too.” So, you are energized and ready to save money. You turn on your computer and search for coupons and deals. Then feel as if your head might actually explode. You are totally overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin.
Maybe you actually set out to a store with a stack of coupons and brand spanking new binder. But you became frustrated at the register as every coupon was scrutinized, you were told you couldn’t use one or you couldn’t figure out why a coupon “beeped.”
Maybe you tried to follow the deal advice of a blog, drove to a store and there was nothing left on the shelf to buy. Yes, reality set in.
There are a lot of things you will not learn by watching this reality show. For example, a few of the stores have admitted that they went against their own coupon policy for the show. Also, it costs money to coupon. Many coupons are purchased by coupon clipping companies or from publications with coupons inside. Then there is the cost of ink when you print coupons online.
One of the most important things not known is a few shoppers on the show were fraudulent in how they were using the coupons. Basically they used a coupon meant for one item but redeemed it for another item. Fraudulent with coupons? Yes, it seems greed has a way of taking root in many things, including coupons. Grocery coupons are distributed by manufactures of products and stores are reimbursed for the amount of the coupon, plus eight cents. The problem is that when they are used incorrectly, someone has to pay. Ultimately it’s the consumer. It’s a twisted fate of irony, but one that shouldn’t be ignored.
So, what are you to do and where do you start? With anything in life, you should have a plan. So, start with figuring out how much money you can save in all areas of your life, not just with couponing. I recommend that before you fork out money to workshops, drive all over town looking for free toothpaste or use up all of your ink printing every coupon you can find that you first look at where your money is currently being spent. Yes, that means doing some work.
This week, gather all of your bills and write down what you owe each month. Are there ways that you can save money with your expenses? Then, figure out how much money you actually bring in each month. Also, with everything you purchase seriously ask yourself if you need it and if you can pay cash for it. Finally, clip out the coupons from Clip2Save and put them in an envelope in your car so you will have them handy when needed. The worst thing in your finances is not having a plan. Now that’s extreme.
By Theresa Shadrix
In this first of my new weekly column on couponing and savvy shopping, I thought I’d come right out of the gate with a few truths that I’m sure you won’t hear anywhere else. We’re all friends here and I figure there is nothing like spilling my guts, so to speak, about the world of couponing.
For one, couponing may be one of the most difficult relationships you will ever have. There will be days when you will want to give up but you’ve got so much invested in it that you can’t.
There will be days couponing will take you to emotional heights that make you giddy. There will be days when you stare at them and wonder why you love them so.
Other days you will loathe them with a passion. You will be jealous when others seem to have the same love as you, but yet you want to tell everyone about what they mean to you.
You will spend countless hours studying your coupons, sorting them, and matching-making them with the rights deals. You will do all of this without cupids arrow smacking you in the face or piercing your heart. You will do all ofthese things for one reason – to save money.
Trust me when I say that it won’t take long before you read this column and realize all the truths I write.
For now, you may be scared out of your wits. “How on earth could I love couponing,” you ask? Possibly you are a little creeped out that you could actually get a flutter in your stomach from a piece of paper that will get you $.50 off paper towels at Wal-Mart, or $1 if it’s doubled at Fred’s or Winn Dixie.
I don’t write this column for those who already understand. This column is for those of you who heard the latest way to save money is couponing. The only problem is you are not sure where to start.
So, before we begin this journey, I have to let it be known up front that couponing is a commitment. Also, it’s hard work and you will only get out of it what you put into it. But, you won’t be alone. I’ll start from the basics and give you some tips. Each week I’ll try to answer your questions and help you to fully understand why I, like so many others, love couponing.
You may not fall head over heels in love for them. But, I bet after a few weeks of using them correctly, you just might have a slight puppy love.
Got a question? Email me at email@example.com.