Thanks to a friend, I got back into couponing almost 2 years ago. It is much easier now to find the deals than it was when my husband was in Vet School. It takes a bit of time/effort to get into the swing of things, but once you figure it out it only takes a bit of effort every week to save big. Here are some pointers and some links to my favorite Websites for saving.
Match a sale to a Coupon. This maximizes the savings you can get. You can also get more for your money by buying smaller sizes. This one took me a bit to do, but has gotten easier. It is simple math. $1 off an item that is $1.50 vs. $3 item lowers your price per ounce. If you need more buy 2 and use 2 coupons. In the example you would get $3 worth for $1 vs. $2 if you only used 1 coupon.
Set a budget and stick to it. When starting to coupon, a smaller portion of your weekly budget will be used for stockpiling. As your pile grows you will need less every week and you can afford to spend a higher percentage on things you don’t need today, but KNOW you will before it goes on sale again.
Stockpile This simply means that if an item you use hits a rock bottom price, get as much as your budget or usage vs. expiration date allows. Then find a spot to store it. Treat your stock pile like a grocery store, face the labels to the front so you can see what you have, group similar items, place newer items to the back, and use what is older so that it doesn’t expire. Most grocery items go on sale about every 6 weeks, So unless an items price is AMAZINGLY LOW don’t get more than a 6 week supply. The longer you coupon, the easier it will be to recognize a ridiculously low price.
Create and stick to a list. Impulse buys will destroy your budget. When I make a list I write the item, the shelf price, what coupons to use, and total expected price. Knowing what you intend to spend while in the comfort of your own home, gives you the time to eliminate budget busting items that you might not need, or that could wait.
Save Coupons. I get my coupons from many sources.
SUNDAY PAPER. I got a great deal a while back on a Sunday subscription to the Star Tribune. When I want an extra, and before I got that great deal I picked up the Early Sunday paper on Saturday for $.75 (that is a savings of $1 per paper). If there are several papers in your area, find out which one has the best/most coupons and get that one. I do NOT clip my coupons until I use them. I right the date on the front of the insert and file away the ENTIRE insert.
PRINTABLE. These are available through a brands webpage, facebook page, coupons.com, or smartsource. You can either do a google search by brand name or follow a link from a blog to print. FYI if you follow a blog, clicking there link often earns them a nominal $$ and is a great way to thank them for the effort of putting together a list for you.
CATALINAS. These are the coupons that automatically print from the machine when you check out at the store. (I know. They have a name? I found it funny too.) Often times a bloggers shopping list will tell you that these will print before you even go there so you know to watch for them. (Ad this information to your list so that if it doesn’t print, you know to ask someone!)
FREEBIES. When you sign up for free samples you get the sample and sometimes you get a high value coupon too! I set up a separate email account for these freebies so that my regular account wasn’t bogged down in spam. (Do that at gmail, hotmail, or yahoo for free)
MAIL. Companies like Proctor and Gamble allow you to sign up for their mailers, Which often have high value coupons not available anywhere else. Know body seems to know for sure how to get on the Target mailing list, but it is generally assumed that if you have registered for a wedding, baby etc.. you get on their mailing list. If you have never registered, register for your birthday or something, you don’t even need to tell anyone, but you can then get on their mailing list.
PEELIES. These are the coupons you find on or near the product on the shelf, that say SAVE NOW. Keep your eyes open. They are everywhere. When I find them I peel them right away and ad them to my coupon stack. If I leave it on the package I ALWAYS forget to use it at the check out.
Organize your Coupons. I store my coupons in a plastic filing crate that I picked up for a couple dollars. On Merge my inserts so that I have 1 thick insert from each week with all the same coupons together and easy to clip when wanted. On a weekly basis when I clip and make my lists I have an inexpensive 4×6 flip photo book that I sort by store and keep in my purse. This is a great place to keep gift cards, store rebates, store coupons, etc. so when I am at the store I can easily flip to that page and see if there are any savings I might have missed.
Choose not to be brand loyal. Just because you have always used a particular brand of shaving cream, doesn’t mean you can’t use any other kind. There are certain items that I am not willing to compromise on, but since I do on so many others, I can easily afford the few that I am particular on.
Follow Blogs that save you money. Coupon bloggers offer lots of ways to save. http://www.creativecouponing.com/ creates shopping lists with coupon matchups
http://www.mojosavings.com/ points out great/high value printable coupons when they become available. They also provide a bevy of links to online shopping deals that will amaze you.
http://www.iheartthemart.com/ is one I am using lots now since we have one in town.
I follow them on Facebook so I can quickly see the updates in my newsfeed and click the ones I want more information on.
Use online saving sites. There are lots of sites that provide daily deals. Some I follow daily, Others I don’t, but often see on Mojo.
http://www.1saleaday.com/ I check this site daily, I have gotten free earbuds, wisks, and $1 sterling silver necklaces, etc.. they have 4 deals a day
http://www.groupon.com/ They specialize in discounted services. I picked up a 1 year subscription to the Star Tribune for $38!! As I am typing they have a $20 gift card to Old Navy for $10!
Smart Phone. Apps like Ibotta, Jingit, SavingStar, and Endorse allow you to earn cash for purchasing select items, or watching videos, or scanning select items at a store.
Price Matching. Shopko, Walmart, and Target to name a few price match their competitors. Since I live 20 minutes from a lot of stores, price matching in town can save me time and gas.
Start small. Pick a store, learn and and use their coupon policy. Then learn the next store. Some like Walgreens or CVS can be a bit complicated. Your trips will get better as your coupon stash grows and your knowledge gets better. Besides once you have a good stockpile, you will mostly be buying items that are great prices so your offer all trips will get better. You will also be able to look through the Sunday inserts and instinctively know that a certain coupon will result in a free item or that it is high value so watch for a sale.
Stick with it. The effort you put in initially will seem like a LOT for a little reward, but the results grow exponentially!!!