Couponing is a serious budgeting strategy that can save you tons on your food bill and other expenses. Regardless of whether you plan to use the money saved to buy needed items, take a vacation, pay off loans or play at your fav online casino, you’ll find that you can feed your family well for less by paying serious attention to the newspaper’s coupon section.
Some people grew up in a coupon-clipping environment while others are newbies to the pursuit. If you are one of those whose idea of couponing revolves around your memories of your mother sitting down with the newspaper and a pair of scissors to search for usable coupons, get ready for a whole new world.
There are still coupons in the newspapers but today most of the coupon “clipping” involves online apps and visits to store websites. You can also combine different types of coupons to get even better deals.
One of the most helpful things that you can do to get started with couponing involves identifying coupon blogs that focus on stores in your local area. Those blogs are dedicated to giving useful, hands-on tips for general couponing as well as information about what’s going on in your own region.
These blogs also put up “match-ups” that list what’s in the sales flyer for local stores. They note the stores that are offering especially good sales and list apps where you can find additional savings. Many savvy coupon-clippers rely on these blogs because they do the legwork for local shoppers and help people combine different types of coupons in order to get the best deal.
Once you’ve hooked into the blog network you can work those coupons into your shopping plan.
Planning your shopping trips is a must-do to save money, not only on the shopping itself but also on your gas and time. You’re not going to save much if you’re driving to far-flung stores or running from one side of town to the other in order to use up your coupons.
Experienced couponers often buy grocery staples in advance so that they can shop for the best deals. For instance, if you want to save money on breakfast cereals, you’ll need to find the day that the store is offering coupons on breakfast cereals and stock up. You limit yourself to what’s on sale and what’s being offered. This allows you to buy items when the price is right, not when you need to restock your pantry.
Keep an eye on the big couponing events. Such events are generally announced in advance by the stores and also in the blogs. For instance, if you know that a store will be tripling coupons in the near future, you can hold off on shopping for a period of time before the event and then do as much of your buying as possible during the event itself.
You might want to use what’s on sale to help guide your food choices. If a sloppy joe mix is offering a good coupon, stock up and make sloppy joe every Monday for a month. You can also use coupons to subsidize the cost of foods that don’t generally offer coupons. Fruits and vegetables are costly and aren’t generally on sale but if you’re saving money on other items, you can splurge on the fruits and vegetables, especially since you know that you’re adding to your family’s healthy meal plan.
You can either track down the coupons for the items that you use regularly or you can shop according to the coupons that you find. Regardless, some of the places where you can find coupons include:
- Your local newspaper. Your local newspaper almost certainly has a set day of the week when they publish coupons from the local stores. Make it a practice to get the paper on those days and check the coupon section.
Many dollar stores sell newspapers at a discount so you can save even more money by buying your paper there. In addition, RetailMeNot and SmartSource publish the coupon inserts that are published in the Sunday paper. Other companies, such as Procter and Gamble, publish their own coupon insert at the start of each month.
You might even want to buy extra copies of a paper that has good coupons. If you have a printer you can print coupons or load them to your store loyalty card. P&G, SmartSource, and RetailMeNot offer this service.
- Visit the Coupons.com website where you’ll find hundreds of printable coupons for many major brands. You can print 2 of each coupon so take advantage of the service and maximize the opportunity.
- Drugstore and Grocery Store websites offer coupons that you can download onto your store card. On the store websites, you can find store-specific coupons as well as manufacturer coupons. You should always check the site before you go to the store – you might even find freebies that you wouldn’t otherwise know exist. Upon checking out at the checkout counter you simply present your store card to redeem the coupons.
- There are free grocery apps such as Checkout51 and iBotta that make it easy to find cashback deals and store coupons. You can often pair other coupons (store coupons, manufacturer coupons) with the app deal and multiply your savings.
- Physical coupons can often be found on the store shelves, at the register, on the back of receipts and even right on the products so you’ll see those coupons in the store itself. You might find a “Try Me Free” sticker on a product – such products usually come with a rebate offer which you’ll find on the packaging (often on shampoo products).
- No one likes junk mail but such mailers often include high-value manufacturer coupons. Give them a glance before you throw them away.
- Store mailings are often viewed as junk mail but don’t toss them before you check – they frequently contain valuable coupons. If they’re from a store where you have a store card, the coupons may be customized to your purchase habits. These mailings often include coupons for meat, fish and produce — items which are not usually featured as coupons in other coupon locations. It’s important to review these mailings carefully.
- Manufacturer websites are also a good source for finding coupons. Many companies display printable coupons on their website or you can contact the company (by email or phone) to request coupons for products that you use. You can even send the company a note, telling them how much you love their product – that often prompts the company to send you a slew of coupons.
- Products themselves frequently display loyalty coupons so you can clip them off the packaging after you finish using the product and use it on your next purchase.
- Women’s Magazines such as Good Housekeeping, All You, Woman’s Day, Family Circle and Red Book carry manufacturer coupons. The magazines aren’t cheap but if the coupons give you good discounts on items that you’d be buying anyway, you’ll more than make up the cost of the magazine. The magazines cost less if you have a subscription than if you buy them from a retail outlet so if you’re using them regularly, consider getting a subscription.
You might have dozens of coupons but if you can’t find them or if you use them haphazardly you are just wasting your time and resources.
To maximize your couponing, you must develop a filing system. One of the best systems involves organizing coupons by category – cereals, frozen foods, dairy, etc.
You can also file coupons by expiration date or by store. The best way is to find a method that allows you to combine all three types or organization. For instance, within each store’s file, you might insert subfiles — one with “category” and another with “expiration date.” Then, when you go to that store, you’ll be able to find the coupons for the items that you want and need.
Don’t forget to go through your files regularly and throw out the ones that are no longer relevant. Having the extra papers floating around will just be confusing and will eat up your time as you try to find the coupons that are usable.