If you have gotten the bug to try out couponing but find it “too extreme” as a single person, don’t! Not every good couponer needs to spend 30-40 hours a week on couponing, and not all feel the need to buy and store 50 tubes of toothpaste or 100 cans of soup. But, let’s face it, if you can save 30-50% on your grocery bill, wouldn’t you want to do it?
Grocery stores have tightened up their former free-and-loose coupon policies, but there are still great ways to use them and save. After all, grocery stores want your business! They will always offer incentives to get you in—whether that is through weekly sales, in-store coupons, or special offers.
1. BUY ON SALE!
The only way coupons work well is to purchase only those items on sale. An item generally goes on sale about every 4-6 weeks, so when you see an item that you use frequently, stock up! The amount of discount in the weekly ads on your favorite products will vary—learn the regular cost of some of your pricier foods and personal products to note the variances. Of course, the better the sale, the better the savings with your coupon(s).
2. PURCHASE THE SUNDAY PAPER EVERY WEEK OR COLLECT FROM PEOPLE YOU KNOW
Sunday newspaper inserts: Red Plum, Smart Source and P&G are going to offer the best value in coupons. Once a month, generally either the last Sunday newspaper or the first Sunday newspaper of every month offers the best bang on coupons—all three inserts and in a greater quantity than other weeks. You want this paper! Check out the schedule for these coupon distributers.
Note: there are no coupons on a national holiday weekend.
I recommend clipping any of the buy-1 get-1-free coupons and anything that is valued $1 or higher on a single product that you use. The only time I might clip a coupon for a single product under a $1 is if my grocery store doubles coupons.
Check out your grocery store’s coupon policy. If you are considering stocking up on your favorite goods, you can usually use up to 4 of the same coupons per transaction.
3. CREATE AN ORGANIZER—PURCHASE YOUR SLEEVES ON EBAY
I know it sounds like a bit of overkill, but an organizer will be like your best friend and save you time when you are creating a grocery list. I have seen the best price for these sleeves on ebay and even had some coupons included with my sleeves. They come in three sizes—I use them all! I have mine divided up into sections such as dairy, meat, snacks, deodorants, etc.
I personally clip coupons at night, after dinner, while I am relaxing with a bit of TV. I probably spend a few hours on coupons a week.
If you have your coupons organized, you can quickly pull them for your shopping list. I study my grocery store ads over a weekend morning cup of hot Chai and begin making my list, so that it becomes a routine for me. My grocery stores allow me to create a list right on their website by selecting the sale item. I can also add other items that I need like staples, such as milk.
Managers will mark some “unadvertised” prices or manager specials. This is where your organizer can be handy to have in the market. A quick look will let you know if you have a coupon.
My grocery store once marked a bunch of my favorite organic granola bars 50% off to move out inventory. I happened to have $1 off 1 box, and I bought 3 boxes for .50 each!
4. COLLECT COUPONS THAT WILL DELIVER THE GREATEST “PAYOUT” TO YOU
This was a trial and error of sorts for me. There are strategies for collecting all coupons, but I often either didn’t find the time or didn’t see enough value in it.
The coupons that can make the biggest dent in your grocery bill are those with the greatest value.
- Buy 1 Get 1 Free coupons: This is a great coupon because it often has a standard retail value attached. So, for example, say you have a coupon for buy 1 Speed Stick Deodorant and get 1 free. When this product goes on sale, you have a good chance of getting both these items free if the full retail value is taken at the register, which it often is.
- Manufacturer coupons: These are the coupons you see in the newspaper and online. I personally clip the $1 or greater off 1 product coupons, then wait for these products to be in the sale ads.
Special notice: Look to see if your coupon has any restrictions on size or quantity. If it only states, “good on any ….” You have a great opportunity to grab a travel or trial size and perhaps get the item free or very close to it.
- ·In-store coupons: These coupons are created by the store and can only be used by that store. Many will allow you to use these in combination with manufacturer coupons, which makes for a great savings to you.
- Catalinas: These are those coupons that are issued with your receipt and usually a discount toward an item that you have purchased at some point in the store. Check them over before you decide to toss. Sometimes they offer instant cash toward your next in-store purchase; other times they might be a discount toward 1 product item. Look along the top to see how it is identified. Some of them I toss but others are considerably helpful.
5. NEVER TURN DOWN FREE
If you have an opportunity to purchase an item using coupons that you don’t need or use but it = free, buy it. Someone can always use these items, whether that be a charity or friend strapped for cash. In some cases, you may even get paid to shop.
Once I managed to purchase two Revlon tools fulfilling my coupon requirement and had cash left over that I got to apply toward another product.
That brings me to the next tip…
6. AlWAYS PURCHASE THE SMALLEST QUANTITY REQUIRED BY THE COUPON
It really does pay off…buying the smallest quantity means paying a smaller price that
a.) is on sale
b.) discounted further with coupons.
Coupons will vary on their value and purchase requirements. For example, one week I might clip a $1 coupon for my Crest Pro Health Rinse requiring a 16 oz. or greater purchase requirement. While a month or so later, I might see a $2 coupon with the same purchase requirements. The longer you collect coupons, the more familiar you become with these coupon patterns.
7. DON’T SEE COUPONS FOR THE FOODS YOU LIKE? EMAIL A COMPLEMENT—ASK FOR COUPONS!
I am a vegetarian and like to buy organic foods. Fortunately, my grocery store carries more of the organic brands I like, but I don’t often see coupons for in the paper. So, I made a list of all my favorite foods and began emailing the companies with a complement and a request for coupons. I don’t think I encountered one company that didn’t not only thank me for the complement, but also mail me some great coupons.
Mambosprouts.com is a great place to check for organic coupons and another good online site is coupons.com You can only print a current coupon online twice, so if you see a coupon you really want, find another computer or ask someone to print for you.
8. CREATE A SHOPPING LIST AND STICK TO IT…UNLESS YOU SEE A DEAL YOU CAN’T PASS UP!
This is probably the toughest for me personally. I always want to pick up something that looks good—probably because I am hungry when I go shopping. However, I have gotten better at sticking to my list UNLESS I see a great deal and just can’t pass it up.
9. COMBINE YOUR COUPONS, OTHERWISE CALLED “STACKING”
This is one of the greatest ways to save money! What it means is combining an in-store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon for 1 item. Some grocery stores offer coupons on their website as well in their paper sale ads. Target is a great place to find these. Just Google “Target Coupons” and start browsing. They change their coupons about every 4 weeks, so I check regularly. I have gotten some great deals—especially with items that are on clearance or manager’s special.
10. DON’T PASS UP A GOOD DEAL ON AN ITEM, EVEN IF YOU DON’T NEED IT THIS WEEK
I did this all the time–waited to buy what I needed when I needed it and paid full price.
Without going crazy nuts like the folks on Extreme Couponing, just consider the extra time and minimal storage for some of your pricier hair and face products when the deals present themselves that could save you big $$.
Razor blades are VERY pricey and I occasionally see GREAT coupons for these items. I clip, then wait until I see my brand on sale and take my two or three coupons and buy. Yes, it’s a bit of extra storage, but those $5 razor blade coupons only come around every few months, so I take advantage of using them when I see them.
11. KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE REGISTER
Watch the register screen as your items are being scanned.
Watch very closely…
Stop the clerk if you don’t believe an item rang up correctly and check it out. I cannot tell you how many times I have grabbed an item I thought was the one on sale only to learn what I had was incorrectly stocked. Or worse, if the store register does not pick up the sale price for an item and you get charged the regular price. Better to catch these errors while still in the checkout line rather than discovering the error when you check over your receipt later at home.
I also have found that many store clerks have missed scanning a coupon if I hand them over all at once. So, I have found it to work in my favor to hand over the coupons one at a time so I can see that each is properly scanned.
12. LOVING ALL THE SAVINGS? JOIN AN ONLINE COUPON GROUP FOR TIPS AND MORE IDEAS
My favorite is A FULL CUP because I learned some great tips from these couponers. I took their suggestions and advice and found a middle ground. There are lots of great coupon websites out there if you want to learn more than beyond these tips. Happy Couponing!!