Hardware stores are a Krazy Coupon Lady's secret shopping weapon, and Ace Hardware is one of the best. Here, a girl can stock up on indoor and outdoor staples (Paint! Bug spray! Garden hoses!), buy items to repurpose (think bathtub tension rods for curtain rods in framed windows or plumbing fixtures as chic candle holders), but she can also get one one-on-one assistance from a home improvement pro.

Ace Hardware stores offer attractive sales and specials. Use these tips to score big:

Rethink It: You can get more than nuts and bolts at the hardware store. My local Ace sells candy, PillowPets, decorative candles; it even has a bridal registry! Because Ace Hardware stores are independently-owned, the one near you may have made-in-your-state items, handmade goods, and other niche items that you might never expected to find at a big box store.

Shop the Sales: To see what items are on sale nationally, check their online ad. Their monthly "Red-Hot" buys are the best offerings.

Store Brand: Buy store-branded merchandise. The company is so certain that its private Ace merchandise (over 12,000 products) will perform well that it guarantees them. If you are not satisfied, return the product for a full refund in store. But the guarantee gets better! Store-branded hand tools come with a lifetime guarantee!  These products are also ones routinely on sale so, as the website says, check ad circulars and online deals for even bigger savings.

Rewards Register: Ask about registration in store for Ace Rewards or sign up online. Ace Hardware's free rewards program awards points for dollars spent online and in store, awarded in increments of $5. A 1,000 point bonus for sign-up will get you started!

Online Rebates: Ace Hardware provides monthly rebates as well as holiday (Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day) rebate offers online, forgoing the traditional fuss of store register receipts, stamps, and envelopes. Here, shoppers can plan trips according to available rebates. Look closely: many rebates are available more than once (like a rebate limit of up to four of the exact same item), creating an opportunity to save big on stock-up items.

Free Shipping:  Ace always offers free online shipping to a local store, but free shipping codes are also released throughout the year.

Brown Bag It:  Several Saturdays each year, Ace has a Brown Bag 20 percent off sale. Get 20 percent off of anything that fits inside a brown paper bag. Some restrictions do apply, like for power tools. These are advertised in advance, so check your local store for participation.

Get a Store Calendar: At the end of each year, Ace stores offer a store-branded promotional calendar to their customers for free. Each month contains a valuable tear-off coupon, like for $5 off a purchase, a free roll of shop towels or garden gloves, or a percentage off certain big-ticket products, like paint or tools. Keep the calendar handy, and enjoy the monthly savings!

Use a Discover Card: The cash back bonus center of Discover Card online has a redemption option for a $25 Ace gift card using just $20 of a customer's cash back bonus award. That means you are getting $5 absolutely free! This guaranteed 25 percent rate of return on your money is one you won't easily find elsewhere.

Consider an Ace Visa: If you envision spending a lot of money at Ace Hardware—and you have good credit—consider the store credit card. You get rewarded for purchases made in store and online, along with quarterly bonus offers. This spring, Ace was also offering a $100 statement credit with sign-up.

Take Your Coupons: Some Ace stores WILL accept newspaper and printable coupons, so save those Miracle-Gro, Spectracide, Cutter, Clorox, pet food, battery, and home cleaning product coupons. Policy differs between stores since each location is independently owned. Ask a clerk about local coupon policy.

Cash Back: If you are a current member of ebates.com, you can receive 4 percent cash back through Ace Hardware when ordering online using their site. If you are new to ebates.com, you can earn a $10 gift card with your first $25 purchase.

Enjoy rediscovering your local Ace hardware store and saving big with these tips.

 This has been a guest post by Audrey from Texas
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Hardware Hurrah: Saving Money at Ace Hardware