How to find and use coupons to save big bucks.
Find Your Inspiration
Even though I love the idea of saving money with coupons, I’ve never been a big coupon clipper. If I did find a good coupon in the past, inevitably it wouldn’t make it to the grocery store with me when I needed it at the checkout line. But lately I’ve heard a couple amazing stories about people who bought over $200 worth of groceries for something like $10 using coupons! So I did some research to find out how these huge savings are actually accomplished.
Advice to Get Started Couponing
Using coupons for everyday expenses takes time and dedication, but can really be worth the effort if you create an easy-to-use system. Most people who find success with coupons share some common advice for novices like me:
Get organized. If you don’t know what coupons you have, you’ll certainly never use them, right? Consider buying a coupon organizer. Or you can use an accordion file, a 3-ring binder with clear sleeves, or even envelopes in a shoe box. No matter what your filing method, be sure to label your organizer with the product categories that you’re going to collect. Here’s a suggested list of 15 common shopping categories:
Sauces & Condiments
Crackers & Cookies
Baby food & supplies
Make it easy. One of the best tips I found was to sort coupons into categories that you’d find grouped together in the grocery store. So if you always go to a certain store, and shop it from the left side to the right side, for example, make a note of the product categories you find as you move through the store. Then bring your coupons with you in this order.
Be proactive in your search. Finding coupons has become much easier in our age of information. Sunday papers and store flyers are still a great way to find them, but don’t limit yourself to just those sources.
Print out coupons from the many websites that offer them. Check out coupons.com, smartsource.com, coolsavings.com, shopathome.com, couponalbum.com, entirelycoupons.com, and bradsdeals.com, just to name a few. There’s even a site for organic coupons called organiccoupons.com.
And why not go straight to the manufacturer for savings? If you’re brand loyal, visit the company website to see what they offer. You may be able to sign up for a mailing list that will email you coupons.
Stay current. Set aside a few minutes each week to throw away all expired coupons. Or if you shop on a regular basis, purge your file before you go. Consider putting coupons in order of their expiration date within each of your product categories.
Prepare to shop. When you create your grocery list, write it on an envelope. Then put the corresponding coupons that you want to use for those items inside. When you arrive at the check out line you can hand them to the clerk right away.
Pile On the Savings
I’ve found that the holy grail of couponing is to layer savings. This means using a coupon for an item that’s already on sale. Many stores will let you double up like this. And speaking of doubling, some stores will even double the value of coupons all the time or on certain days.
Here are some more tips to consider for maximum savings:
Never waste time cutting or printing coupons for items that you don’t buy.
Don’t spend money on any item that you really don’t need just because you have a killer coupon.
As you shop, be on the lookout for coupon caddies on the store shelves.
Know your prices—coupons for brand name products may still be more expensive than a generic that suits you just fine.
Keep a list of the items you frequently purchase and their regular prices. This will help you know when you find a really good deal.
If you have the storage and freezer space, buy in bulk.
If you shop regularly at a certain store, ask what their policy is regarding expired coupons. I’ve heard that some stores will honor all coupons even after their expiration date!
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