Saving with Coupons

saving with coupons
Using coupons can save you a little or a lot depending on how much time and effort you want to put into it. I admit that I am slightly intimidated by the 'super couponers' - women (it is almost always women that use coupons, for some reason...) that seem to save more than they spend by using coupons to get unbelievable deals.

Becoming involved in saving with coupons to that extent may not be for you:

  • You may not have the time to spend hours each week searching for and organizing coupons
  • You may not buy a lot of the things that coupons are issued for - mostly processed, name brand foods. If you follow a lot of the other frugal tips (buy store brands, use whole foods rather than processed, make your own fabric softener, etc.) there may not be as many coupons available for those items.

    Don't worry! I am not a super couponer, either! But I do like to save money, and can sometimes get carried away with the excitement of clipping coupons! Regardless of how involved in saving with coupons you want to be, it helps to know the rules of the game so that the time you do spend on couponing is time well spent.

  • Know store policies. Up until recently I did not know that certain stores allow coupon "stacking" (more about that in a minute). When you know the policy, it allows you to take advantage of opportunities that you might not know about otherwise. Research your favorite store's coupon policy online, call them, or ask next time you are there.

  • Double up on coupons. Some stores allow you to use one of their coupons AND a manufacturer's coupon for the same item. This is commonly called "stacking" coupons and it is perfectly legal. Stacking can be a great way to save a huge chunk off of the price of the item! I recently had a manufacturer's coupon for $1. off energy saving CFL light bulbs and a Target coupon for $1.50 off the same brand of light bulb. My final cost for the 4-pack of bulbs was under $2.00!

  • Keep track of sales. If you clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper, be aware that many chain stores schedule their sales to coincide with these coupons. I just recently learned this and was amazed when I looked through the sale fliers of several stores and saw ads for most of the items I had just clipped coupons for. The best way to make use of the coupons is to use them while those items are on sale (usually just that week) so that you get a better price in the end. Yeah, it sounds like a "duh!" but I have been using coupons for over 20 years, and I just discovered it! (Maybe I am a little slow!)

  • Stay organized. There is nothing quite so frustrating as knowing that you have a coupon for an item, but not being able to find it when you need it. (Unless it is FINDING the coupon AFTER you have paid for the item and it is too late...) Keeping your coupons organized can help to avoid searching through them every time you need one. I recommend keeping them in an index card filing box, a shoe box, or a legal sized envelope (recycle the ones that come in junk mail instead of throwing them away!). It is a good idea to divide them according to categories - whatever categories make sense to you and your shopping habits. One way would be by shopping aisle: frozen foods together; cereals together; cleaning products, and so on. Another way is to separate by food group: meats and entrees; vegetables; snacks, etc.

  • Get rid of expired coupons. Go through your coupons on a regular (monthly?) basis and weed out the expired ones. I used to take out the ones each month that were going to expire that month so I still had a chance to use them before they expired.

  • Join a coupon exchange group. Some stores and community groups have coupon boxes where you can donate the ones that you don't need, and find ones that you want for free. There are also online groups that trade and exchange coupons through the mail.

  • Look for coupons online. There are lots of websites and blogs are centered around saving with coupons. They keep track of and report on current sales and have links to coupon printing sites. You can also sign up for coupons to be sent to your email address. Look for coupons at the website of the store you shop at and also on manufacturer's sites.

  • Use coupons only for things you normally buy. If you spend $4. to use a 50 cent coupon it is only a bargain if you needed to buy that item anyway! Don't get so carried away with the 'savings' that you lose sight of the bottom line - how much did you SPEND and what did you GET for it?

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