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9 Ways to Become Coupon Savvy

You don’t have to be an extreme couponer to save money on your grocery bill each week. Mighty Mommy has 9 easy tips on how the average family can take advantage of coupons and save up to 50% on groceries each week.

By
Cheryl Butler
January 6, 2013
Episode #214

9 Ways to Become Coupon Savvy

Do you coupon? I ask because up until 2 years ago, I couldn’t have been bothered to clip a single one, despite the fact that I have 8 kids, 5 of them growing boys! Then I watched TLC’s Extreme Couponing, a show about people who take couponing to another level, and that all changed. If some families could save over 75% of their grocery bill using coupons, surely I could save at least 20% and not go crazy in the process.

Couponing is definitely not for everyone. But if you’re willing to invest a small chunk of time initially to get organized, understand the coupon lingo, and figure out how to take advantage of the smartest savings in your area, you’ll shave 40% off your weekly grocery bill, like I now do.

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Here are 9 tips to help you start couponing and saving money! 

Tip #1: Where to Find Great Coupons?

In your mailbox. At least once a week, Value Pak coupons and local store ads will arrive in your mailbox. Often they are masked in a larger advertisement and many people toss them as junk mail.  On the same evening as they come in the door, do a quick run through, clip the ones you want, and toss the rest.

In the Sunday paper. Many Sunday editions typically have a big coupon section, and if you already get the paper, you should most definitely be taking advantage of it and even consider buying more than one paper for the sheer value of the Sunday coupons! 

In magazines.  Many magazines have coupons in them, so be sure to keep an eye out for free or cheap subscriptions.   All You is the couponer's favorite and is only on sale at WalMart. Or you can subscribe directly and use their website for more great coupon savings.

At the checkout. Catalina coupons are the cash register tape coupons that print out after you've bought a product. They're usually red and come out with your receipt. Many people don’t even give them a glance before throwing them away, but that’s a mistake. These are often manufacturer coupons that can be used anywhere. They are triggered by the purchase you make at the store and can be a great way to save on items you already purchase.

At the store. Big chains like Walgreens, CVS, and Target have store coupons which can be combined with manufacturer coupons. You can find these in their ads, at the store website, or in the store itself. At Walgreens, look for the coupon book as you walk into the store, right by the sales ads. CVS offers coupons via email and also with your CVS card (you can scan it under the coupon machine in the store). Target offers coupons on SuperTarget.com and they'll mail them to you too every once in a while.

Tip #2: Keep Your Coupons Organized

There is no point in attempting to save money with coupons unless you’re willing to invest a solid block of time organizing your system. Those who clip and shove their coupons in an envelope that will soon make its way to the bowels of a purse are setting themselves up for failure before even getting started.

One method of organizing coupons is to sort them by category, such as foods, health and beauty aids, medications, etc. This can be helpful if you want to pull out coupons for a certain type of shopping trip.

You may find that sorting your coupons by expiration date will help you, as well. This will ensure that you don't have many expired coupons on your hands (oh, how that hurts!). This is a great system if you don't shop often or aren't accustomed to using coupons on a regular basis.

Finally, you may try organizing your coupons alphabetically by brand name or by product type. This can be easy to flip through if you're shopping for a specific product.

No method of organizing coupons is right or wrong. Evaluate how and how often you use coupons and develop a system that will be easy to maintain. It all depends on what works best for your needs.

I use a large binder with baseball card protective sleeve sheets and file mine alphabetically and by category. This process initially took me several tedious hours, but once I had invested that first block of time, now it takes me less than an hour each week to clip, print, and organize my coupons.

Tip #3: Schedule Couponing Into Your Routine

Like any routine, you need to be committed to make it successful. I use Sunday afternoons as a quiet time to plan my meals, make out a grocery list, and to clip coupons from the Sunday paper as well as visit coupon sites. Pick one set time each week to spend on couponing and it will pay off in no time!

See also: How Routines Will Simplify Your Life

Tip #4: Become Familiar with the Lingo

The next step is to get familiar with coupon lingo and policies. Are your coupons stackable? (Meaning you can use a manufacturer's coupon in tandem with a store coupon.) Do stores in your area offer double coupon deals? (Meaning at certain times you can use a coupon and it'll be worth twice its face value.) 

Next, brush up on the acronyms. OYNO (On Your Next Order), MIR (Mail-in Rebate), BOGO (Buy One Get One Free).  You need to learn terms like these in order to maximize savings. But there are many more you may run across as you navigate the world of couponing. Visit the Penny Pinchin Mom’s site for a great list of coupon abbreviations.

Tip #5: Know Your Store’s Coupon Policies

Some stores' coupon policies are listed online, while others you have to ask for. Once you obtain hard copies of the policy, it's a good idea to keep them in your binder. Then if there is disagreement over the details of a transaction, you can show whoever is checking you out the relevant portion of that particular policy.

It’s best to remain respectful and polite. You might find cashiers and even managers who are simply unfamiliar with their store's coupon policy, and by being friendly and helpful about it, you're much more likely to achieve positive results.

Tip #6: Printable Grocery Coupons

There are multiple web sites out there that allow you to print grocery coupons for free. Sometimes you can print the same coupon more than once, which of course saves you twice as much and really allows you to take advantage of stocking up on the sale items in your store when you can pair the sale with a coupon. Visit Couponing101 for an entire list of printable coupon sites.

Tip #7: Buyer Beware!

There are some pitfalls to avoid when coupon clipping. If you don't normally buy an item, don't buy it just because you have a coupon. If you occasionally buy an item but don't need it right away, it can pay to hold onto that coupon until the item goes on sale to really maximize your savings. Once at the store, I stick to my grocery list. The combination of a solid grocery list, planning my family’s meals for the week, and couponing saves our family of 10 approximately 45 – 50% per week on groceries! That wouldn’t be the case if I allowed the coupons to dictate what I buy (that’s the difference between me and those folks on Extreme Couponing – who really needs a year’s worth of cat litter all at once?)

Tip #8: Coupon Apps for Your Smartphone

Coupon Clipper is an app that aggregates available coupons in your area and puts all those local deals in the palm of your hand. Plus, you’ll find coupons for nearby restaurants, automotive services, home-improvement stores, and so on. Just tap View for any deal you want to see, then tap Redeem to get your unique coupon code to show to the merchant.

Tip #9: User-Friendly Coupon Websites

Once I really got going with coupons, I found some websites that were chock full of great coupon tidbits and best of all, were very user-friendly. Here are my three favorites:

Savings.com   

Moneysavingqueen.com

The Krazy Coupon Lady

Do you believe in taking the time to use coupons, and if so, what are your strategies for getting a bang for your buck?  Please share in the comment section or post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. You can also connect with me on Twitter @MightyMommy or e-mail me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com.

Check back next week for more parenting tips. Don’t forget to check out my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT

If you haven’t been using coupons, I hope you’ll give them a try and remember, you don’t have to be extreme to be a successful couponer! Until next time……..happy parenting!

Coupons image from Shutterstock

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