Until last month, I WAS a coupon clipper. Twenty years ago when I was a new mom, I had time to clip coupons weekly and maintain an organized coupon wallet. Time passed, more babies were born, I started homeschooling and suddenly there was no time for couponing. With less time, I discontinued couponing, consolidated my food shopping to one store and bought as many generic brand products as possible. Fast forward twenty years and now our economy is struggling and we have two daughters in college. If there was ever a time that I need to save my pennies, it’s now! I’m certainly learning as I go, but here are some things I’ve learned over the past two months:
General Principles for Couponing
Look for ways to save money on the groceries you regularly buy. You aren’t saving money if you use coupons for items you don’t usually purchase!
- Be adventurous and try new brands of items that you have coupons for, if the coupons make the item cheaper than your old brand. You may find a new favorite.
- Think ahead and stock up on deeply discounted items. Stock up on discounted toothpaste or toilet paper—after all, you know you’ll use it! Purchase discounted baking items in the fall so you’ll be ready for holiday baking.
- Know how much you are spending . Save your register receipts and write down the cost of the products you most often buy. Use this as a guide to compare at other stores or for future discounts.
Where Are the Coupons?
Newspapers We cancelled our newspaper subscription many years ago; however, I’ve recently learned that I can subscribe to my local paper for Sunday and Wednesday delivery for 75 cents per week. Another friend recommended purchasing a paper at a dollar store.
Mailers Even though we don’t get the paper, we still receive a weekly Red Plum mailer that includes grocery store advertisements and coupons. You can sign up to receive the Red Plum mailer at: www.redplum.com.
Printable Coupons There are several sites that allow you to print coupons. These are not the same coupons that come in the newspaper, even if they have the same company name. Most sites require you to download the coupon printer before you can print a coupon, but you need only download it once.
Weekly Advertisements Check out the front page specials of the grocery store circulars, usually featuring the deepest discounts called “loss leaders” that are designed to get you into the store to spend more money. Don’t forget the bogo specials (buy 1, get 1) and discounts on meat. Meat can always be frozen for future use.
Friends If you have friends that get the paper, ask them if they’ll keep the coupons for you. Ask for pet coupons from friends who don’t have pets. There are also organizations that facilitate trading coupons, but I haven’t explored that yet.
What’s the strategy?
Organize Your Coupons When I first started clipping coupons, an envelope worked just fine. Sometimes I’d see other moms with fancy binders, but I had no idea how to set up one myself. I just found this link for a binder you can make on your own: Make a coupon binder.
Know the Coupon Policy for Each Store Each store has its own coupon policy which states how many coupons are accepted per day or per transaction, the maximum coupon amount accepted, and which coupons, if any, can be doubled or even tripled.
Use your Coupons Wisely Avoid using coupons at high-priced grocery stores. Instead, save your coupons for shopping trips at stores that already have lower prices.
Shop on Double Coupon Day We have a local grocery store that offers double coupons each Wednesday and super doubles once a month or so. Though this store generally has higher prices, I collect my l amount coupons, which will be doubled, and purchase just those items. Again, you need to know how much you usually spend so you know if you are truly saving money.
Research the Blogs There are so many websites/blogs devoted to helping people save money. Let them do all the work! Here are a few of my favorite sites that have deals on groceries, restaurants, and other products. Sometimes there are even free samples if you sign up for a mailing list. Keep a look out for posts about match up items and dates for double coupon days. Here is a list of some of my favorite blogs: moneysavingmom.com southernsavers.com thecouponconsultant.com couponchallenge.com passionforsavings.com
Purchase Matchup Items Most blogs have a weekly post of match up items for a specific store—discounted items purchased with a coupon at a significant discount or even free. The best blog for you to follow is the one that includes your local grocery stores. Posted matchups can save a lot of money, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I don’t always have the coupons. Also, the matchup items are not always available at my particular store and when they are available, often the items are already out of stock by the time I arrive in the afternoon. The early bird definitely gets the worm!
Sign Up for Group Discounts Some organizations offer discounts to their members. One such company is Groupon. I signed up to receive a daily email featuring a discount to a local business or service. Most offers are available for purchase for just 24 hours and a new offer will arrive in your inbox the next day. Generally, the discount is usually 40-50% and the coupon may expire anywhere from 3-12 months. There is a minimum number which must be purchased by the group before the discount takes effect—hence the name “Groupon.” After you pay by credit or debit card, you print the Groupon and present it as a coupon at the place of business. There is no membership or handling fee. My favorite Groupon purchase was 50% off a flying lesson at our regional airport—a Father’s Day gift for my hubby. Groupons are a great deal for gifts or things that you regularly purchase.
One such group discount is available through Homeschool Buyers Coop. Members sign up to receive a free newsletter which communicates all available discounts on various homeschool curricula. Each discount is available for purchase for several weeks. There are three levels of discounts, based on how many orders are placed—more orders equals a deeper discount. If you purchase early at a lower discount and more people purchase later, you receive price based on the number sold at the close of the deal. You may pay by debit or credit card and the product ships after the deal has expired—which may be several weeks after you made the actual purchase. I was able to save about $50 on a music curriculum for the fall.
Be Ready to Learn
Really, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn--and it takes time to master the art of major savings. If you are an “Extreme Coupon Queen,” please post a comment to this article and share your favorite secrets for saving money with coupons.
Note: Groupon compensates me for new referrals; however I posted about it because it has saved my family money, not because I'm trying to make money.