Social networking isn't just for keeping in touch with friends and family. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest can save you money, too.
All three can be money-saving tools, in different ways. I actively use them to save on groceries, eating out, entertainment and do-it-yourself ideas.
Twitter was the first social networking site I joined, and now I consult my timeline several times a day for the best deals on just about everything. (I post my favorite deals to Twitter at @cheapchick.)
Twitter is great for making sure you don't miss out on time-sensitive coupons, sales and offers. Follow sites such as DealNews.com, @dealnews; RetailmeNot.com, @retailmenot; or FatWallet.com, @fatwalletdeals, and you'll be notified of limited-time offers online and offline.
DealNews, for example, let its followers know in late March when Amazon.com was offering a deeply discounted deal on refurbished Kindle Fire tablets with the same guarantee and warranty as new tablets for only $139. The deal lasted a few hours before selling out; many who were able to get one saw the offer on Twitter.
Follow any retailer or restaurant you patronize regularly, and you could get great coupons and other offers. For example, Iceberg Drive Inn restaurants post frequently on Twitter at @IcebergDriveInn, alerting followers to a host of discounted offers and even free food. Utah's Subway restaurants are active on Twitter, as well, at @Utah_Subways, alerting followers to specials and periodically giving away free stuff.
I joined Facebook a couple of years ago after I noticed all of the high-value coupons being offered on the social networking site. Today, it's one of my best sources of high-value grocery coupons.
In fact, the coupons offered regularly on Facebook are higher in value than coupons found elsewhere online and in print.
The trick is to follow food manufacturer websites but instead of tracking a company such as Nabisco at Facebook.com/pages/Nabisco, you'll want to follow product-specific Facebook pages. In the case of Nabisco, you could follow Facebook.com/nabiscocookies (this site issues a high-value coupon on the first of every month, while supplies last) or facebook.com/Wheatthins. Use Facebook's search tool to find the pages of your favorite products and click "like" to follow them.
In addition to high-value coupons, companies give away a lot of free food on Facebook. Domino's pizza tests new products, most recently its artisan pizza line, by giving them away. I recently snagged a free pizza during a five-day giveaway blitz. Cafe Zupas gives away free meals to its Facebook fans before a new restaurant opens; most recently, they enjoyed a free meal in the new restaurant in Farmington in Davis County.
In addition to following your favorite food manufacturers, you may want to follow your favorite apparel companies and shopping centers. Both are typically highly active on Facebook, offering an array of coupons, discounts and other money-saving offers.
In fact, I always consult with the Facebook pages of apparel retailers such as Old Navy before I go shopping; there's almost always some type of offer. At Facebook.com/oldnavy, you can click on "Reveal a Deal" for a coupon, such as $10 off a $50 purchase.
Tanger Outlets is a mall company that is nearly always offering some type of deal on Facebook, such as a $50 Tanger Outlets gift card for $40. Go to Facebook.com/tangeroutlets and click on "style deals" for the coupon you'll need to get this offer. In Utah, the company has an outlet shopping center in Park City.
If you use Facebook a lot to keep in touch with friends and family and are worried about cluttering up your news feed, you may want to set up a separate page just for coupons.
Beyond Facebook, I recently joined Pinterest.com just because of all the buzz about the relatively new site, but in the past several weeks have found it a great tool for saving money in two ways by eating out less and by purchasing fewer convenience foods.
For the uninitiated, Pinterest is a photo-sharing website. Users "pin" photos of things they like to their "boards." The nifty thing about Pinterest is that after you type in your search words, you'll get visual images of your search. Click on the image, and you'll get more information about it, such as instructions to complete a craft or in the case of food, a recipe.
On the site, you can search for "easy dinner recipes," "easy dessert recipes," "budget-friendly recipes," "cheap recipes" and so on. I've done this via Google, but for some reason I've had more success finding useful recipes on Pinterest. You also can search for specific recipes and you'll get several different versions of the same one. Once you see a recipe you want to check out, simply click on the image.
I've tried a number of new entree, dessert and snack recipes on Pinterest, which has helped me out of a cooking rut that had made the takeout and the fast-food restaurant window ever so tempting.
Not everything you try on Pinterest, of course, turns out beautifully, but it's a great way to find new inspiration in the kitchen. The site also offers a way to organize your finds. When I come across a recipe I'd like to try, for example, I "pin" it on the board here: Pinterest.com/onecheapchick/recipes-i-d-like-to-try.
Once I've tried a recipe (and liked it) and made it several times, I add it to Pinterest.com/onecheapchick/tested-and-loved-recipes.
In addition to providing a bunch of recipe ideas, Pinterest can help in the home-decor and craft department, too. You can find some cool, crafty and economical Mother's Day and Father's Day gift ideas, for example, as well as ideas for a teacher.
Pinterest also is a great source of printable activity sheets for kids (search for printables for kids or printables for children).
Or if you're just stumped on how to stretch your family's budget a bit more, try searching Pinterest for thrifty ideas. You'll find a plethora of surprisingly easy do-it-yourself ideas, such as making your own glass cleaner or making vanilla extract.
The nice thing about social networking sites is that you don't have to be online all day long to benefit. Consider Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest part of your money-saving toolbox and use them when you need some new ways to save.
Lesley Mitchell writes One Cheap Chick in blog form at blogs.sltrib.com/cheap.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @cheapchick Facebook.com/OneCheapChick