Clipping coupons can be serious business—there's strategy involved and some serious myths out there. Follow these steps to use coupons like a pro and save money!
Stick to Your Usual Shopping Habits
Coupons don’t actually save you money if you’re buying a product you wouldn’t normally buy or are buying a higher quantity than you will ever use before the item expires. Also make sure to check generic and other brands to see if they are still cheaper than the product you are buying with a coupon! A coupon that saves you 30¢ isn’t much good if the item is still 40¢ more expensive than the store brand.
Shop at Stores that Double Coupons
You can save big (twice as much, in fact) if you shop at a grocery store that doubles coupons—that is, offers you one dollar off for using a 50¢-off coupon. Unfortunately, these stores are few and far between in most states. Visit Couponing.about.com/od/groceryzone/a/doublecoupons.htm for a reader-generated list of stores that double. And if you find one, consider yourself lucky!
If you’ve ever seen the common limitation “limit one per purchase” on a coupon, you may have thought that you could only use one of these coupons during a shopping trip. But that isn’t true! The limitation actually means that you can only use one of these coupons per item, not per trip. For example, if you’re buying five tubes of toothpaste and you have five identical coupons, you can use all of them. This is important to keep in mind if you find a great deal on a item you buy regularly. Get a second newspaper or have a friend save theirs, and you can now get double the discount! Then stockpile your items and save.
Print Double Coupons
If you print out coupons from sites like Coupons.com, here’s a secret you’ll want to know: You can print out just about all internet coupons two times from each computer. Just click your internet browser’s “Back” button, or go back to the site’s homepage and search for the coupon again. If you have more than one computer in your home, you can print two more coupons from that computer!
If you’re used to checking the “unit” prices of items at the grocery store, you know that buying the bigger size almost always means a better value. But when you have coupons, the opposite is usually true. That’s because with couponing, the name of the game is getting the biggest percentage off your purchase. For instance, if you have a one dollar-off coupon and buy the product that costs $2.00, you’re getting half off. But if you buy the product that costs $2.50, you’re only getting 40 percent off. This method can pay off big in your store’s trial-size aisle. If your coupon says “any size” (and doesn’t exclude trial sizes), you’ll often find that you can get 60-95 percent off your purchase when you buy a trial size. Buy several trial sizes with several coupons and you have the same amount of product as you would with a regular size—at a fraction of the cost.
The Best Things Come to Those Who Wait
Here’s a great tip if you find yourself balking at spending the time to clip coupons just to save 50¢ here or there. Cut out coupons from the Sunday paper, then let them sit for four weeks. Many food and cosmetic companies plan their promotions so that customers buy their products right when the coupons are released. Then, when they run out of the product, they go back to the store and find that the store has it on sale. (Then you’re hooked!) If you wait to use your coupons, you’ll find that they often sync up with an in-store promotion, so you’ll save twice as much.
Play the Drugstore Game
Now that most drugstores are offering cash-back offers, something called “the drugstore game” has sprung up among frugal shoppers. To “play,” all you have to do is keep a careful watch on in-store promotions and the coupons you have on hand. Whether you’re getting money back through a frequent buyer club card, or coupons are printed directly at the register, most drugstores are eager to promote these savings, and you can use them not only to save, but to make money at the store. This is possible because you may receive, for instance, a $2-off “cash back” coupon for buying a $2 item that you have a 50¢-off coupon for. In other words, you’d be making 50¢! Other drugstores offer deals for spending a certain amount alongside their normal offers. For instance, during a recent week at Walgreens, a shopper could receive $5 in “register rewards” (money-off coupons that print out at check-out) for spending $25. That’s a $5-off coupon for free! The secret to being successful at the drugstore game (besides being intimately familiar with each store’s reward program) is knowing what’s on sale before you go. If you don’t regularly receive store flyers, check the store’s website. For everything else you need to know about the drugstore game, visit ChiefFamilyOfficer.com/2008/09/drugstore-game-primer.html.
Sign Up for Email Alerts
Don’t mind clipping coupons, but don’t have the time to leaf through inserts full of products you don’t use? Sign up at Rather-Be-Shopping.com to receive email alerts when coupons for brands you buy are released, both in your local paper and on the internet.