A beginner’s guide to couponing with your phone

Let’s face it: With the high cost of dental school and its associated living expenses, money can be tight. Being a dental student is not cheap, so tips on how to stretch your money can be as helpful as a chairside assistant. An easy way to save money is by couponing.

Reality TV shows such as “Extreme Couponing” have made it seem as if you need to commit to a couponing lifestyle in order to save a few dollars, but you don’t. Luckily for us, we live in the age of smartphones, which means there are great apps that make it easy to save money, even if couponing isn’t your favorite pastime.

For me, living in Washington, D.C. while in dental school has been a great experience. There’s never a dull moment because there is so much to do. I wouldn’t have been able to fully experience the city without using money-saving apps. Two of my favorites are Groupon and Ibotta.

Most of us are familiar with Groupon, which offers deals on goods, local activities and restaurants, beauty services and even vacations. The app is intuitive and easy-to-use — all you have to do is download it, set up your account and search your location. It displays the regular price of the item so you can compare it directly to the discounted price. I’ve used the app to take advantage of discounts on restaurants, museum fares and spa treatments. Other fun outings such as dance classes, paint-and-sip nights and escape rooms can also be purchased. Groupon recently debuted Groupon+, which, depending on the city you’re in, gives users with an enrolled Visa or Mastercard access to offers of up to 30 percent cash back.

Ibotta is another great app that allows you to maximize your savings. It offers cash back on everyday purchases when you shop at many different stores. It’s convenient because you can scan your receipt with your phone after shopping. I use this all the time on Amazon, at CVS, Target, Costco and Trader Joe’s. The Ibotta website states that there are over 500,000 locations where cash back credits can be redeemed, and it partners with more than 300 companies throughout the nation. It is particularly remarkable because it allows you to redeem cash back from multiple retailers in one place.

Here’s a snapshot of how to get started:

  1. Download the Ibotta app via the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Open the app and set up an account using your Facebook login or your email.
  3. Select your favorite stores.
  4. Choose the items that you are interested in buying, and you can redeem the cash back value after you purchase them by scanning your receipt.

Although there are other couponing apps out there, I have found these two work best for me. Another tip is to keep track of the stores you go to the most and see if they have an app to help you save money. Most retailers, restaurants and department stores have applications that offer coupons, discounts, rewards points or cash back. Some of these apps will also link to your loyalty card (if you have one) to maximize savings. Similar to Groupon, apps such as Gilt City and Local Flavor can get you deals on food, salon and spa services, etc., based on where you live. Another one is Raise, which allows you to purchase gift cards from various brands, discounted from 1–30 percent.

These are simple and easy-to-use apps. Give them a try and see how much you can save. Remember: You do not have to be an “extreme couponer” to take advantage of the savings.

~Chinyere Mbadiwe, Howard ‘19

Chinyere Mbadiwe

Chinyere Mbadiwe is a third-year dental student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

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