Q: The more I use coupons, the more I notice that I get better deals when I am not brand-specific. Any laundry detergent gets my clothes clean no matter the brand, and spaghetti sauce in a jar is all pretty much the same.

Is there any product you are completely loyal to?

A: Like most coupon shoppers, I'm not particularly brand loyal. I am willing to float to other brands if the price is right. It's a great way to try new products and save.

As for complete allegiance to a product ... for 15 years, I was loyal to one product. This year a single coupon persuaded me to switch brands.

Like many women, I color my hair. I started going gray at age 21. At first, it was a silver streak in front that looked kind of cool. But then more silver strands peeked through.

Shortly after college, I bought an at-home hair color kit made by a major manufacturer. I had never colored my hair, so I was apprehensive. But the color was easy to use and I was thrilled with my soft, shiny brown hair. And so began a long relationship.

After I became an avid coupon shopper and learned that it's often possible to find better prices on competing brands, there was still one product I remained loyal to: my hair color. When I discover a beauty product I like, I tend to stick with it. And since finding the right hair color can be tricky, this was one area where I wasn't comparison-shopping or even particularly price sensitive.

Last year, though, I discovered a competing brand offering a coupon on its website for a free box of hair color. I immediately clicked and requested my coupon. I didn't redeem it right away. I waited until the coupon was near its expiration date, bought a box that looked close to my current color and stuck it on the pantry shelf behind my usual brand. The new brand was my "just in case I run out" backup hair color, because as much as I like free things, I was afraid to switch.

This year, the brand of hair color I'd been loyal to for years came out with new packaging and varieties. Unfortunately, the new product did not last as long or work as well for me. I no longer loved it. The next time I was ready to color my hair, I picked up the free box of the other brand in my pantry. I hesitated but went ahead and used it. My hair came out soft, shiny and golden brown.

Guess which hair color I'm going to buy from now on? A coupon turned me into a loyal customer for a new product that I probably would not have tried otherwise.

Jill Cataldo, is a coupon workshop instructor. Visit www.jillcataldo.com.