In the current economy people are looking for more and more ways to save. For many, using coupons is one of those ways.
Often however, folks wonder if coupons really save money. Is it too time consuming? Are there coupons for “real food”? Will people stare at me when I use them in the store? Is using coupons right for me? The answer to the question “Is it worthwhile to coupon?” is, probably. How much money you save couponing will depend on certain things. Many people end up spending literally fifty percent less after they’ve been using coupon systems for awhile.
Do you have access to coupons?
In order to save money on coupons you need to have the ability to get more than just the insert in your Sunday paper. This means either buying a couple extra papers, joining online coupon swaps (which abound on the net), or trading with friends and neighbors. In my case I purchase three newspapers. Yes, I do need to recycle the extra papers (or ask the drug store if I can buy the papers and then just take the inserts). We’re a family of two, so generally three or four coupons on an item is sufficient. When the kids were at home, I asked the paper boy for extra papers if he had any, and I traded at an online site such as www.couponforum.com. In terms of acquiring coupons, time spent is generally minimal-an email or two as a regular part of your day, a quick stop at the store on the way home for extra inserts.
You need an easy way to find out what is on sale in your area, and which stores have the best deals. Is a sale really a sale?
The best way to do that is to join a coupon site such as www.couponmom.com. Coupon mom is free, and lists the best sales each week, along with available coupons (listing the date they appeared in the paper). Coupon mom is free and shows grocery sales as well as Walmart, Target, and drugstores. She’s already saved you the time of sitting down and going through the paper page by page. While some stores have unadvertised sales, almost all sales are nationwide and listed, these days.
You need a good organization system for your coupons.
This is where many people jump off the wagon. They imagine themselves sitting hours cutting coupons, sorting coupons, matching coupons. Setting up a system (whichever you choose, and there are many), takes a bit of time at the very beginning. But afterwards, whith most systems, using coupons takes minimal time, especially when you consider the rewards. The easiest coupon organization system is to simply save the inserts date in file folders. Then if you use a site like Coupon Mom or the Grocery Game you can go to your file folder, pull the insert and cut out the coupons needed for that week. Much less time consuming than cutting, sorting, filing and searching.
You’ll save more money the more stores you have nearby.
The more stores, the more the need to come up with good sales in order to compete. Your best deals will always be coupons combined with “loss leaders”, that is, those five to ten things that are usually on the front page of the grocery ad, at rock bottom prices. Stores have these ads hoping to lure people in. A dedicated couponer will go the store, buy the loss leaders and stock up, and wait until the next week and the next sale.
You’ll save more money if you’re willing to be flexible in terms of both stores and brands.
In other words, even if you love Krogers, if Tom Thumb has loss leader prices on ten things you can use, that’s where you go that week. The same is true of store brands. Yes, you will save money if you only buy Hunt’s ketchup. But if youre willing to buy whatever ketchup is on sale and have coupons for, you’ll save more money, more often. We all have a few specific brands from which we will not budge. But if you’re flexible on most items, your savings will be larger.
The ability to stock up when you find good deals.
The best way to get good coupon deals is to combine with sales, and buy as many of the item if possible. Recently, Target had Kraft Dressing and Kraft Barbecue sauce for 89 cents. Coupons were available for both a dollar off one and seventy five cents of one. Buying one bottle of Kraft dressing in these circumstances was a good deal. In my case, I had four coupons for each, and ended up paying either nothing or fourteen cents per bottle. I now have four bottles of each on my shelf, almost for free. As I am a family of two, this means that I will probably not need to add salad dressing to my shopping list for a very long time. If I were a larger family, once I had seen the sale flyer, I would have put a call out to my trading partners, and tried to get more coupons.
There are a few other things you may want to remember, or consider as you experiment with coupon use.
When using coupons, the family or economic size is not always the cheapest.
If sixteen ounce bottles of the above mentioned Kraft dressing is on sale for 89 cents and I have dollar coupons on one, I end up with 32 ounces for free. If the thirty two ounce dressing is on sale for 1.50, you can only use a single coupon on the bottle, ending up with a cost of fifty cents for the same amount.
You may want to rethink your shopping method.
Many, if not most, serious couponers buy items to fill their pantries, rather than shopping to a weekly list. They buy loss leaders (with our without coupons) each week, as well as milk and produce. They then plan their meals from those items in their pantries (by pantry here I mean closet, fridge and freezer storage). This is the best way to get serious, long term grocery savings.
Once you get adept at using coupons along with sales, you’ll find that most personal and household products are free and almost free.
I could not tell you the last time I actually paid money for say, Colgate toothpaste, after regular sale and doubled coupons. This significantly lowers your overall household and grocery bill, even if there are more non food coupons than coupons.
There are food coupons out there.
The trick is to watch for them carefully, and then keep your eye out for a matching sale to maximize the value. Also, by visiting manufacturer’s websites, you’ll often find high value coupons on a specific food item. Writing a company and sharing how much you like their product may also win you coupons. Proctor and Gamble regularly has coupons on dairy items and bread items for example.
Never turn down a freebie.
Your church or food bank will be happy to receive these kinds of things.
So this week, check out some websites, and look at the available coupons and your grocery ads and circulars in a new light. Make seeing how much money you can win through coupons a game, and reap the rewards. See how much you can save, and what you could do with that money-today!