Entertain yourself with savings

Published7/30/2008 12:05 AM

I have always been a big fan of the Entertainment coupon books. These are the books typically sold by schools or youth organizations at the beginning of the school year as a fundraiser. Years ago, I was the mother in charge of our school's Entertainment fundraiser. (I might add that I hold the school record for selling the most books!)

The Entertainment books are known primarily for their restaurant coupons. Each book has hundreds of coupons that are typically "buy one, get one free" offers for all kinds of eateries, from fast-food to fine-dining options. Because the books are specific to each city, there are also many local businesses and retailers with coupons. In addition, every time I travel, I find that the member car-rental rates available through Entertainment.com are the lowest available, and they do not require prepayment, so they are completely refundable and risk-free. And my airport parking lot has a coupon for $25 off, which is equal to the cost of my coupon book!


However, I also encourage shoppers to check their city's edition of the Entertainment book, because many editions have generous store coupons for major grocery stores. This is not true for every city's book, but it can be a great source of savings if your city's book has grocery coupons.

For example, in Southern California, shoppers can save $5 off their grocery order at Ralphs each month. In New Jersey, shoppers can get ShopRite coupons from the book. I use the Atlanta, Ga., book, and it has monthly coupons for Kroger ranging from $5 off all the way up to 15 percent off the total order.

I promote these books frequently, and I recently received this question from Sandra B. of Atlanta, Ga.: "When is the best time to buy the 2009 Entertainment book? Will there be better/ different deals as the 2009 edition becomes available? Should I reserve now or wait?"

Sandra, reserve the 2009 book now to take advantage of the special free 2008 book offer if it is still available. Because the Entertainment books come out at the beginning of the school year, over the course of the year the price drops.

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In June, the Entertainment.com site offered a special promotion that gave shoppers a free 2008 book (with coupons that are effective until Nov. 1, 2008) when they simply reserved a 2009 book. Later in July, the final rock-bottom price for 2008 books is being offered for just a few days until the inventory is sold out.

In Sandra's case, the grocery coupons alone of each book are worth more than $100 a year, not to mention all of the savings from other coupons. If you shop once per week, it actually makes sense to have four Entertainment books if your city's book offers grocery coupons. I save between $5 and $24 per week with each Entertainment-book Kroger coupon, because I give the 15 percent coupon to the cashier before all of my other coupons.

It's worth it to buy at least one book when they come out. If I were to wait a few months, the savings I would miss would be higher than the cost of the book. The average full-priced book costs $25 to $35 each.

Although shoppers can preview the Entertainment book coupons by city at Entertainment.com, for some reason the site does not show the grocery coupons available by book. To solve this problem, I created a list of cities with Entertainment-book coupons by state, store and value and posted it on my site, www.couponmom.com in the Printable Grocery Coupon section. You can find a text link to the preview underneath the blue Entertainment-book banner.

• Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America." Find more savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and at www.couponmom.com. Write her at shoppingmom@unitedmedia.com.

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