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Report from couponing website says cheap is still the new black in Florida

A few years back, budget-minded consumers said cheap is the new black for retail. Saving became trendier than splurging. Cheapskates everywhere came out of their closets and headed straight to secondhand clothing shops.

But for some of us, cheap has always been tres chic.

A new survey confirms our state's thriftiness. The coupon website ShopAtHome.com ranks Florida the eighth most frugal state in the country, based on its customers' coupon usage in 226 major cities nationwide. New Hampshire was the most frugal and New Mexico was the least.

Becki Dilworth, director of online marketing for the Denver-based site, said Florida's results were interesting given the state's large elderly population. Tech-savvy California, by comparison, came in 42nd on the frugality list.

"Floridians are clearly smart online shoppers. They know how to play the game,'' she said.

Does that make us cheap, I asked? No, she said. That makes you smart.

I can live with that.

Speaking of playing the game, I recently registered for Walgreens' new Balance Rewards loyalty program. Shoppers sign up at a store or Walgreens.com to earn points on sale items redeemable for cash off future purchases. Rewards start at 5,000 points for $5 off.

Shoppers accumulate points by entering their phone number or showing their Balance Rewards card at the checkout, much like CVS' Extra Care card. Walgreens' free phone app lets you keep track of your points on your phone, which is pretty cool.

Balance Rewards is a huge improvement over Walgreens' monthly Savings Book, which I quickly lost interest in. I got 100 points buying a 59-cent candy bar last week and admittedly am plotting ways to earn more this week.

Walgreens advertises which items receive points and how many in its Sunday circulars. Store officials say the points program isn't replacing Register Rewards, but there certainly aren't many of them lately. Register Rewards are printed out at the register when you buy certain items and give you money toward your next purchase provided you use it before the expiration date. Balance Rewards points last three years.

Get ready to see the Balance Rewards cards everywhere because, starting Oct. 25, only members will receive the store's weekly sale prices.

Behr paint crews are setting up shop outside local Home Depot stores starting Wednesday and continuing through early November.

The BehrPro Experience is a mobile marketing tour designed to educate painters, contractors and remodelers about its professional products and services. It's also a good reminder to stock up on paint for those home-improvement projects we've all been putting off but must get done before the holidays.

Tour stops will have demonstrations on Behr's new products and promotions. Attendees can register for a chance to win one of four paint trailers, tools and supplies worth more than $10,000. For details and a schedule of store stops, go to behrproexperience.com.

It's easy to eat your way through the rest of the year, starting with these fall-inspired treats.

Publix has a new Apple Stack Cake: apple butter sandwiched between four layers of cake, topped with vanilla cake crumbles and powdered sugar. It's sold by the cake and, mercifully, in two-count slices.

Bella's Italian Cafe on S Howard Avenue in Tampa has a Plum Almond Cake with fresh plums dusted with powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream.

And lest I forget my favorite fall dessert: the Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Scarily good.

Susan Thurston can be reached at sthurston@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3110.

Report from couponing website says cheap is still the new black in Florida 10/15/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 7:55pm]
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