Non Extreme Couponing
Most of us are familiar with extreme couponing. We have seen and heard of people who can bring home a truckload of food and dry goods for just a few dollars. When I speak to people who do not use coupons their response is often based around the massive amount of products they would acquire. Who has room in their pantry for forty bottles of mustard? Who has the need for forty bottles of mustard?
This is the classic “quality vs quantity” argument. It is true that most of us do not need the quantity and variety of products purchased by the couponing elite. In addition, most coupons offer discounts on processed and junk food. Those who are health-conscious may not be tempted by these deals. However, we can use extreme couponing tactics to our advantage. It is possible to earn a great deal of savings without packing our fridge or buying unhealthy food. Here are my non-extreme couponing strategies.
Coupons are everywhere. They are offered by local stores, websites, and even the makers of the product. They are on the inside of the packaging and the back of our receipts. The number of coupon sources can make couponing overwhelming. Having a thought out approach will help us stay on top of our routine.
There are many websites which offer coupons. If we have access to a printer this is a great way to acquire coupons in bulk. Visiting these websites will give anyone new to couponing a solid foundation to start saving. Though we do not need to print every coupon, we should print coupons for products we use frequently. These offers may be removed at any time.
Many websites will also offer coupons to those who join their mailing lists. While this is a great way to find savings, it can turn our email inbox into an unruly mess. There are a few ways to get around this. We can make a new email account that is just for coupons and deals. We can also use our email client to have our deal emails automatically placed into a couponing folder. When it comes to coupons organization is key.
There are many apps that can lend a hand when it comes to saving money. Some apps will allow us to scan our receipt to redeem coupons. No longer do we have to hold up the line with a mountain of paper slips. These apps allow us to save money in the comfort of our own home.
Though we live in a digital age, paper coupons are still a favorite among couponers. The most abundant source of these coupons come from the Sunday newspaper. Extreme couponers will pick up multiple copies to employ coupon stacking techniques. Since we are discussing a more bare-bones approach to couponing one paper should suffice. It is also important to be aware of the average amount of coupons we are using from the newspaper. Since the paper costs money we should make sure that we are getting our money’s worth in coupons.
We can maximize our savings by learning more about the businesses we often use. Most grocery stores offer coupons both in flyers and in-store. While a good starting point is the store’s website, we should also be on the lookout for coupons while we are in the store. Many stores offer free discount memberships which allow us to get coupons and special pricing. Many of these coupons will come in through email, but some shops allow coupons to be loaded onto your membership card.
Now that we are swimming in coupons, it is time to get organized. Since couponing has become a multimedia experience. There are many strategies to manage all of these coupon sources. It is important that we find one which works best for us.
As stated earlier, managing emails is very important. Saving some money on groceries isn’t worth destroying our inbox. We can open a separate email account that is strictly used for couponing. If we prefer to have one account, many emails providers offer settings to organize our inbox.
For paper coupons we can make a basic filing system. Opinions on how to effectively organize coupons vary. Some will organize their coupons by product category while others sort by expiration date. Regardless of the strategy, keeping the slips themselves in order is crucial. Folders, small boxes and paperclips are our friend here.
Most smartphones allow apps to be grouped into folders. We can keep a folder of coupon and store apps on our home screen. Some of us prepare our groceries lists at the same time every week. We can set reminders to use the apps and websites.
I use a small organizer for my coupons. It is about the size of a paperback book. It contains a pad of paper, a pen, and multiple pockets. This helps keep my paper coupons with my list. I sort my emails into a coupon folder. I do not use many store apps, but I do have a folder on my phone with couponing apps.
Learn The Rules
Not all coupons are created equal. Coupons have different rules and uses. Most stores have their own coupon policy. It is important to be familiar with these topics. Not only does this help keep our coupons from getting rejected, there are other benefits to being informed about coupon use.
Some coupons are provided by the manufacturer of the product while others come directly from the supplying store. Manufacturer coupons are typically found in the newspaper and on bulk coupon websites. These coupons are often labeled as well. Store coupons can be found in the store’s flyer or through their website.
Many stores allow the use of each type of coupon. This is a tactic known as coupon stacking. This allows for two coupons worth of savings on one product. These combos are hard to find, but a keen eye will help us make the most of our coupons. There are also websites which list potential coupon combinations.
Most coupons have a limit of items that can be purchased. Stores will also have their own polices which outline the amount of coupons that can used. In some instances we can pick up multiple items under the same coupon. On the other hand, not meeting the coupon’s requirements can cause us to leave the store without saving.
Making The List
Many of us make our grocery list and meal plan before looking for deals and discounts. Assuming we are not a picky eater, we can save money by flipping this process. We look at what ingredients have deals and build our lists accordingly. A little creativity can go a long way here.
I personally take a two step approach to this process. First, I add essentials to my list. If I am out of toothpaste I am going to need to purchase some regardless of any coupons I have. I then look for deals in all of the regular places and do my best to meal plan around my available coupons. I mark these items on my list with what source they came from. This way I know that I have a coupon for the item and can make a better decision while in the store.
Do The Math
The are many instances where a coupon does not give the product a price advantage. Assuming we are not picky about brand, it can beneficial to compare the effect of the coupon against the prices of other brands. If we have the time, pulling out a calculator at the store is very beneficial.
Say we are buying apples. Brand X costs $3.50 while Brand Y costs $2.00. We have a $1.00 coupon for Brand X. In this scenario the coupon would not be effective as Brand X would still be fifty cents more expensive. This is a simple example, but this logic becomes increasingly important as we put our coupons together.
This time we are buying dish soap. Brand A costs $2.00 per bottle while Brand B costs $1.50 per bottle. We have both manufacturer and store coupons for Brand A. The manufacturer’s coupon is for $2.00 off of three bottles. The store coupon is $0.25 off of one bottle. This gives us three bottles of dish soap for $3.75 ($1.25 each). We also have a manufacturer’s coupon for Brand B which takes $1.00 off of two bottles. This nets us two bottles for $2.00 ($1.00 each).
In this situation, Brand B provides the best deal. Even though we had multiple coupons for Brand A, the quantity we would be required to buy hurts the price per product. More coupons does not necessarily mean more savings.
Stick To The List
Coupons are often alluring. They tempt us to buy foods that are not part of our diet. They attempt to entice us into purchasing items we don’t need. As much as the coupons influence the list, the list must also influence the coupons. If we are buying unnecessary items we are not really saving money. A few unwise purchases can undo the entire trip’s savings.
We should only bring the coupons we plan on using to the store. This “out of sight, out of mind” tactic will keep us from making extra purchases. However, it can beneficial to bring multiple coupons for the same item for when we find better pricing.
The importance of meal planning and keeping a tight grocery list cannot be overstated. Having an efficient list paired with matching coupons will help us keep our money in our wallet. When possible we can build our meal plan around our coupon collection. In the store, we should only be buying items on the list.
I hope you enjoyed part one of this article. Part two will include links to resources and a glossary of common couponing terms. What are your favorite strategies for saving money at the store? Let me know on social media!
GLOSSARY Of Couponing Terms
Catalina Coupon – These coupons are typically printed at the register while checking out. They are often based around the purchases we are making.
Coupon Stacking – A strategy which involves using multiple coupons for the same product. For example, many stores will accept both manufacturer or store coupons.
Expiration Date – The date in which the coupon is no longer valid.
Manufacturer Coupon – Coupons that are supplied from the maker of the product and can be used at any store. Many businesses will allow them to be combined with store coupons. They are typically labeled with “manufacturer coupon” and are found in newspapers, online promotions and bulk-coupon websites.
Store Coupon – Coupons that are supplied from the business selling the product. Many businesses will allow them to be combined with store coupons. They are typically found in store flyers and online promotions. These coupons are only redeemable at the applicable store. However, many businesses do accept competitor coupons.
Quantity Limits – These are restrictions on the amount of products that can be purchased on one coupon. This information can be found in the coupon’s description. For example, a coupon could be for $1.00 off of up to two bags of flour.
Transaction Limit – These are restrictions on the amount of duplicate coupons that can be used on one purchase. For example, a coupon will state that three coupons can be used to buy three jars of sauce.
Volume Limits – These are restrictions on the size of the product. This information can be found in the coupon’s description. For example, a coupon could be used for a 12oz bottle of soda and exclude two liters.