Coupons. They’re all over the place. We have coupons taped to our grocery items, in our newspapers, handed out in flyers at the store. There are coupon websites and even companies that will send coupons right to your email. For anyone new to couponing, it can be overwhelming. Honestly, for someone who uses coupons all of the time, the process can still be overwhelming. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you be successful at saving money with your coupons!
Couponing is a process, be patient.
I think a lot of people view couponing at this magical way to save 95% on groceries and walk out of a store with carts full of free stuff. To be honest, it’s not really like that. The process of clipping coupons, watching for deals, matching deals with coupons, and shopping isn’t a get-rich quick scheme. It’s hard work!
Using coupons will definitely save you money on groceries, but it will take effort and time. If you’d like to see just how much I have saved with coupons, check out “A Day in the Life of My Grocery Budget.” I encourage you to be patient and start basic. Start with a few free coupons online and perhaps a newspaper. Don’t go crazy, just clip coupons for products that you would buy anyway. Be patient, and the savings will add up little by little.
Only coupon for items that you would buy anyway.
I see all of these crazy coupon shows where people buy 40 mustard bottles for $40 with $45 in coupons in order to have $5 toward their milk purchase. Let’s back that truck up. If you’re not going to use or donate the items that you purchase, then you’re wasting resources. You’re also clearing the shelves for the people that actually want to purchase mustard that day.
I suggest only couponing for items you would have already purchased. When I clip coupons, I clip for things I buy regularly or for things I have been wanting to try (but refusing to pay full price to try). I don’t purchase or stock things that we don’t actually want. That’s a waste of my time and money!
Know the rules when it comes to your coupons and your store.
I save a ton of money with coupons at Bi-Lo because they have the best coupon policy in my area combined with the best stock of items that I use and the best deals on those items. Before you jump blindly into couponing, do your research. It’s important to know what your store rules are. This will help you be ethical with your coupons, and it will help you save money by taking advantage of store policies.
For example, my Bi-Lo doubles coupons up to 60 cents, but my local Publix only doubles up to 50 cents. While that sounds small, a lot of coupons for items that I use have a value of 55 cents. This makes Bi-Lo a better option for me. My store also accepts Publix coupons or any other competitor coupons in addition to manufacturer coupons. Knowing this helps me save extra money on my purchases.
In addition to knowing your store rules, know the rules written on your coupons. It’s completely unethical to try to use a coupon for an item different than its listed products. It’s also unethical to try to use expired coupons. I’m convinced that playing by the rules of the game is the best option to do right by your store and the manufacturers of the products that you enjoy.
Realize that face value isn’t always the real value of a coupon.
You might have a 35 cent coupon for a 3lb bag of sugar. If the sugar normally costs $3.00, then 35 cents doesn’t really seem that great. (Although every little bit helps!) However, if the sugar goes on a buy-one-get-one sale and becomes $1.50, and your coupon doubles to 70 cents, then you now have a bag of sugar for 80 cents instead of $3. Thinking through the best time to use a coupon and finding a store that doubles coupons can save you big!
Investing a little can help you save more.
While it is true that you can coupon with only free coupons from flyers, stores, and the internet, you can save even more if you invest a little bit of time and money. Paying a few dollars for a newspaper might pay off if that paper is full of usable coupons. I pay about $2 for my weekly newspaper, and it pays for itself because of how much I save with coupons from it. On occasion, my paper is so full of great coupons that I might go pick up one or two more copies in order to have extra coupons.
Investing time in clipping, looking through ads, and picking up free coupons online can save you lots of money. You might even be able to ask your neighbors for their coupon inserts if they don’t use them.
Know your limits of time and money.
Currently, I spend up about 1 hour a week clipping coupons and matching them to deals at my stores. I spend another 2 hours a week going to the 2 grocery stores that I frequent. That’s enough for me. I spend $2 a week on a newspaper and then gather free coupons from online. That’s enough for me.
Could I be saving more? Sure. I could spend an extra few hours a week finding more coupons and going to additional stores, but that’s not worth it to me. Driving around to 5 different grocery stores to get the best deals is more stress for me than it is worth. Budget your time and money and stick to that plan. If I’m only spending 3 hours a week on grocery shopping and clipping coupons, and I’m saving about fifty percent on my grocery bills, I’m happy.
Bless others with your extras.
I already mentioned that I only clip the coupons that I know I will use. I clip the rest of the coupons in each insert too, but I give them to a coworker’s family. I have no children, so items like frozen pizzas, diapers, kid snacks, and children’s medicines don’t appeal to me. However, these are items that other mom’s purchase frequently. Why would I throw away these coupons when I could easily pass them on?
I encourage you to find a way not to waste the coupons that you don’t need. You could really bless someone else with your “trash.”
Remember that you have to be patient and smart with couponing, but don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re over-invested in the process, you’ll burn out when it gets to stressful. It’s better to do a little consistently and reap the benefits.
What are your best couponing tips?
Check out: A Day in the Life of My Grocery Budget