If there's one question that I've been asked recently and with some degree of regularity, it's "Can you teach me how to coupon?" While I'm not sure that my status as a couponer is very professorial as of yet, I suppose I do have a few tricks up my secondhand sleeves. So without delaying time or savings, welcome to my first installment of Let's Get Frugal: An Introduction to Couponing.
First things first. Forget what you've seen on Extreme Couponing. I'm not into stashing hoards of groceries or filling carts to the brim with spaghetti sauce or Gatorade. While I'm sure large families, nonprofit organizations, and others who need to feed multiple hungry mouths can benefit from large-scale couponing....it's just not for me. And if you're a beginner, it's not for you either, as I'd imagine that size of a haul can be a daunting process for a novice couponer.
Next, gather all of your sales ads for the stores closest to you that you're familiar with and in which you're comfortable shopping. While it's encouraged to branch out and explore stores around you, if you're going to save money, you need to be at least somewhat familiar with the store layout...and, more importantly, the store's policies. Certain supermarkets reserve the right to limit coupon quantities...and almost no supermarket will let the total price of an item fall in the negatives. Though most chain supermarkets will double (and even triple in some special events) their manufacturer coupons.
Be sure to register with the supermarkets in which you'll be shopping for any shopper's savings cards. And download the store's mobile app, if you're able. Many stores are featuring lower-priced items via digital coupons. And some stores, such as Target, will even let you combine those savings with print coupons as well.
Now that you know the stores in which you'll be shopping, you have your shopper's discount card/mobile app, and the sales circular---it's time to get to the couponing.
Where do I get my coupons? Well it's a combination of coupon booklets found in the Sunday paper, printed coupons from Coupons.com, manufacturer coupons directly from the company, and coupons sent to me in exchange for product review from such sites as BzzAgent and Influenster. But at your bare bones minimum you should find some decent savings from the Sunday inserts alone.
Organizing your coupons helps a great deal, obvious pun intended. I use a small accordion style coupon folder with tabs marked for "Beauty, Health, Meat/Deli, Dairy, Frozen, Gluten Free, etc." And within those tabs, if I should have duplicate coupons, I'm sure to keep them organized so that I use the dates that will expire first.
Now we're getting down to the important factor...the coupons and when to use them. Now, certain things are nonnegotiable. Meaning, when you run out you need them regardless...like let's say over-the-counter medication for when you're ill, or toilet paper. Otherwise...if you want to maximize your savings...hold on to those coupons until the items are also on sale. This can get tricky, as not all supermarket chains will have the same items on sale. This is when those store circulars come in handy.
If you want to shop around, getting some items from Acme...other goods from ShopRite, that's completely up to you. Some say that's the best way to save. But if you value time over money, maybe you should start by seeing which of the stores has the most amount of items that you need on sale...that you can then combine with your coupons.
Keep lists of brands/items that you use, how much they're going for at which store you'd like to shop at, and if you have a coupon.
Read the coupon details carefully for brand, item description (including size, ounces, quantity) and of course, the date. And if you're not sure of your store's coupon policies, it never hurts to check their corporate website, or give their customer service line a quick phone call.
Having almost 17 years of experience in the retail business, I know I have a distinct advantage when it comes to savvy shopping and couponing. But I'm going to try to pass on some of those savings to you!
|Original total before sales and coupons: $112.14 Final total:$43.50|
So get those scissors ready. Because more installments of Let's Get Frugal are coming.
Just remember: What do we want? Coupons! When do we want them? When they're combining with sale items!
What savvy sales and coupon combos have you shopped recently?