Written by a supposed former extreme couponing junkie. (Me).
It wasn’t that long ago that I was one of those people that was infuriated if I was stuck behind an “extreme couponer” at the check-out aisle in the grocery store. Fast forward to a couple years later and I was looking for ways to save money. I was out of work, in school full time, and expecting my first child. I knew I needed to start saving money but the idea of clipping coupons seemed foreign to me and I was overwhelmed figuring it all out. Many people have asked me for “the tricks” of couponing, and since I can empathize with how stressful it can be starting out, I decided to provide you with some tips and pointers to get you started.
Anyone who says they do not have enough time to use coupons is wrong- If you have time to read this post, then you have time to use coupons. Initially it can seem like it takes a lot of time because bulk of the work is just getting organized, but once you get in the groove of things it really isn’t too time consuming.
It’s really quite simple. Check your weekly circular for deals and promotions. Clip coupons. Use coupons in conjunction with sales. Save Money!
I am not saying that with coupons you should have a huge stockpile or closets full of mustard like the lady on the Extreme Couponing show. I am talking about saving a lot of money on weekly items that you frequently use.
A $0.75 coupon is really worth $1.50!
Check your local supermarket to see if they double the value of manufacturer’s coupons up to $0.99. Most supermarkets do. Check on their website or call if you are unsure. Stop & Shop, Shaw’s, and Big Y all double coupons!
Target, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Family Dollar all allow you to use store coupon in conjunction with manufacturer’s coupons. *Check your local store for their specific coupon policy
I used to be under the impression that stores like Walmart, Costo, and B.J.’s all had the best discounted prices. Hah! Think again. While those stores do offer items in bulk that are cheaper than the retail value of items compared to other stores, they do not have sales as frequently. I can’t remember the last time Walmart had a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” Sale, whereas your local supermarket will have promotions and sales every week. The sales such as 10/$10 or Buy 1 Get 1 Free are where you can get great savings!
Buying in smaller quantity can actually save you more money than buying in bulk! I know this may sound foolish, but let me explain:
A small carton of toothpaste might go on sale for 2/$4 or 10/$10. A store like Costco will sell you a package with 2 gigantic tubes of toothpaste for $6. So realistically that’s $3/tube at Costco’s. If you just wait for the toothpaste to go on sale at your local grocery store (I just recently found a sale of a small tube for $0.88) and you use a $1 coupon, you will get the small tube for FREE or very cheap! I happened to have 5 coupons for $1 off 1 tube of toothpaste. So in the end I got 5 tubes of toothpaste for free. That is a much better deal than Costco’s!
Buy 1, Get 1 Sales are where you save the most money!
I always love these sales. Not only are they giving me free stuff, but I can actually MAKE money off of items and use the money to go towards things that aren’t normally on sale.
Example: Half Gallon of Lipton Iced Tea goes on sale, Buy 1 Get 2 free. You can use 3 Lipton Iced Tea coupons! Most coupons will read “$1 off 1 item” and so therefore since you are getting 3 items, you can use 3 coupons. You have 3 coupons worth $0.55 each, which will double to $1.10! So you really have 3 coupons worth a total of $3.30. The cost of 1 half gallon of the iced tea is $2.50, so you just made an $0.80 profit off of the iced tea!
Do not buy cereal if you are spending more than a $1.50. Yes, that includes the expensive brands too.
Cereals are the easiest thing to find on sale! I love the expensive, $3 and $4 boxes of cereal. I don’t sacrifice on what I get; I just wait for the sales.
Target will allow you to use their store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons for cereals. The only downside to this is that they do not double the manufacturer’s coupons.
Stop & Shop has awesome cereal deals. Last week if you bought 4 general mills cereals you automatically got $6 off your order plus you got a coupon for a free gallon of milk. I had 4 coupons for $0.55 off of 1 box honey nut cheerios. Each coupon doubled to $1.10. I found the smallest size cereal box which was on sale for 3/$6. So with each coupon my box of cereal was only costing me $0.90! Total cost of 4 boxes of cereal using coupons: $3.60 plus the $6 back because I purchased 4 boxes = -2.40. So I MADE money from the cereals AND I got a free gallon of milk at the end! Shaw’s will have similar cereal deals, you just have to watch for them in the flyers!
Target is the place to go for shampoos & lotions
I often score the John Freida shampoos for dirt cheap here! The Sunday papers have awesome coupons for hair care products plus with the target store coupon, it really discounts the price. LOOK AT THE END CAPS FOR CLEARANCE! For some reason I always find Nivea lotion on clearance at Target! There is usually a Target coupon for $1 off plus I usually find manufacturer’s coupons too, making the lotions and body washes very cheap or even free.
Here are some general couponing tips:
Get the Sunday paper! This is the best source of coupons. Don’t just grab your town’s local Sunday paper, either. Look for a major city paper, and look for the paper that has all 3 coupon inserts. Usually the inserts are P&G, Red Plum, and Smart Source. Local papers usually contain one of the 3, but many large cities will have all 3 inserts. It varies from week to week. Some weeks I find the Boston Herald has all 3, and other weeks the Providence Journal has all 3. Just pick the paper up and look through it to see. If you can grab 2 newspapers, then that’s even better because you will have double the coupons!
Use Coupon Websites. In addition to the coupons you’ll clip out of the Sunday paper, these are your next best bet. Most coupons will allow you to print a maximum of 2 times per computer. So if you have multiple computers, then lucky you! Keep in mind that coupons are first-come, first-serve. So if you see a coupon for a product that you use, but might not need right now then just print the coupon anyways. Most coupons expire a month later, and it’s better to have the coupon then to miss out.
Here are my favorites:
- http://www.wickedcooldeals.com/ (This one is awesome- you can literally select the store you shop at and they list the weekly specials plus they tell you which coupons to use and supply links to online coupons)
- http://frugallivingandhavingfun.com/ (This one has a COUPON DATABASE! So if you want to purchase Brawny paper towels, you can go to the database & search for Brawny. It will then show you any websites that may have a Brawny coupon you can print)
Like Coupon Pages on Facebook. Here are some great ones:
This makes it so easy for you- When you log into Facebook in your newsfeed you will see updates on various coupons and sales! Sometimes these Facebook pages give you faster updates than on their website.
Go to a brand’s website or facebook page! This is the EASIEST way to get coupons!! Just look for “promotions” or “coupons” or “savings”. Here are two good ones: http://www2.kelloggs.com/Coupon.aspx and http://oldorchard.com/promotions/
Create a separate email address for coupon websites and promotions. Many promotions for freebies or coupons ask that you give your email address. Then the next thing you know your inbox is cluttered with junk and other promotions from the company’s website. To avoid all of that junk in your inbox, just create a separate email address solely for coupons. Check it periodically because many times companies will email you coupons right to your inbox!
Write companies and ask for coupons!
It really does work. Even a simple email telling them that you like their product can go a long way. I score coupons for a “free item” or high value coupons just by liking them on Facebook and writing on their wall! Manufacturers really do care about consumer’s feedback and so they are definitely willing to give you coupons!
Check your receipt before you leave the store & watch the monitor as your items are being scanned!
This is SOOO important!! Many times items get moved in the aisles, and perhaps you grabbed the wrong size item that isn’t on sale. If you aren’t paying attention it can end up costing you a lot of money. Make sure that items ring out on sale! If you get to your car and look over your receipt and see an error, just go to the courtesy booth. This has happened to me before, and I always get my money refunded.
Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for a Store Manager
Often times the registers don’t ring up properly or a store clerk is unfamiliar with a store’s coupon policy. YOU are the one paying the bill. Do not let an intimidating clerk that just wants to get off his shift in 5 minutes try to hurry you through. Be polite, but ask for a manager to verify the coupon policy.
Organize your coupons
When I started using coupons about 4 or 5 months ago, I just had 5 different envelopes: General Groceries, Toiletries/Bathroom Stuff, Cleaning Supplies & Paper Products, Vitamins/Nutrition Products, and Breakfast Foods. When I clipped a coupon it when into the appropriate envelope, that way when I flipped through the weekly circular and saw something on sale I could go into the appropriate coupon envelope and easily find it.
It is as simple as scanning the weekly circular and then bringing a new envelope with you containing the coupons you need for that shopping trip. If you have a lot of coupons you can buy a binder and get insert pages. That is only if you have a LOT of coupons. To begin with, you can just start out with envelopes or any method that is easy for you.
And lastly, Make a shopping list and STICK TO IT!!
Can’t stress this enough! If you don’t go shopping with a shopping list and your coupons sorted, then it is going to be hard to manage and couponing will seem like more work than it really is. Also, without a list you might forget which items are on sale or what coupons you have with you. Whenever I go without a list, I become an impulse-buyer and wind up getting things I don’t need. I actually use an Excel spreadsheet where I list out the item I want to buy, the quantity, retail price, # coupons for that item, total value of coupons, and then final price after coupons. At the bottom of the spreadsheet it compares the total retail cost to my savings after coupons. If I am not saving at least 50% then I feel like the shopping trip isn’t worth it or maybe I should save my coupons and wait for a better sale.
I hope this has helped those of you who are eager to start saving money and using coupons. I am telling you, once you have a few big saving trips, you will wonder why you didn’t start doing this sooner. I personally don’t understand people who criticize those who use coupons. As far as I am concerned, if you aren’t paying for my groceries then you don’t have a right to say anything!