In a difficult economy, many people are looking for ways to save money. Grocery store coupons, department store coupons, store circular coupons and online coupons are great ways to save money on grocery bills, and on other vital purchases for the home. Unfortunately, many shoppers who are new to coupon clipping can miss out on shopping trip savings due to a few very common errors. And in some cases, coupon users who are looking to save money may actually spend more just because they have a coupon! I have been clipping and using coupons off and one for years but find that in today’s economy it has become a vital part of my weekly shopping routine.
Now I know you’re wondering, “Can you really save money using coupons?” and the answer is YES, but you have to know how. It seems silly to think that there is actually a secret to coupon use but the reality is that you can save hundreds of dollars per trip if you just know what to do. As a frugal mom of 2 I have years of experience shopping on a budget, I have tested just about every level of grocery coupon use that a person can do; from all, to some, to none, and back again! Coupon use will vary depending on people’s circumstances. I know people who refuse to use them because they say they just don’t have time, and as a working mom myself, who barely has time to shop for groceries–let alone clip grocery coupons each week, I truly do understand. Yet, not using a grocery coupon on an item that you’re going to purchase anyways is just like throwing money away.
Try thinking of them as cash and you may be more motivated to use them. And yes, it does take a little time each week to clip the coupons and take them to the store, but just like earning money takes time, so does saving money! My answer to the time issue is this, hand your kids a pair of scissors (provided they’re old enough) and have them clip the coupons for you, they’ll enjoy helping you out and you’ll get the task done! Or if you’re extremely pressed for time just grab your Sunday paper and clip only the coupons you can use this week. If you want to clip out all the coupons you can easily clip them out while watching your favorite TV show on Sunday night, even if you just do it during the commercials. Try it, you’ll see! It really doesn’t take as long as you may think!
So now that we have the time issue resolved let’s get down to business these tips and tricks can help you save money with or without using coupons. It’s all about saving money any way you can.
My #1 tip for using coupons is to be careful when shopping at grocery stores that require a membership card to get items for their special ‘SALE’ price, which is just about most of them these days. Especially when new cashiers are in training, they just simply forget to run it through. I’ve never had a problem before now but twice in the last few weeks I’ve had to ask the cashier to refigure my bill because I wasn’t asked for the card and they charged me full price for everything! (This was especially bad since 75% or more of everything in my cart is usually on sale, not just one or two items.) And yes, it is inconvenient to ask for the refunds and wait for the total to be figured, but it resulted in a membership card credit of about $17.00! So make sure that you check your receipt before leaving the store this way if you didn’t get the sale price or the coupon price on any items you can get the credit right then.
#2 This may be a surprise to you (it certainly was to me), but often cashiers do not always know their store’s coupon guidelines! Recently, I had some special store coupons I wanted to use with matching manufacturer’s coupons. Since I was fairly new to this store I stopped by the customer service desk first to make sure it was okay to do this.(a store coupon is not the same as a manufacturer’s coupon, it’s really just their own sale price!) With no employees attending the desk, a cashier happened to be walking by and asked if I needed assistance. I asked her about the coupons and she said “No, you can only use one coupon per item!” Later, as another cashier was ringing up my groceries I mentioned it to her and told her I thought it was strange that the store did not allow customers to use a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon, and she said “You can do that here!” So, in MOST cases it’s going to be okay… However, if you want to make sure your store will honor both coupons at the same time before you try it, just be sure you speak directly to the manager! This will save you the hassle at the register.
#3 I highly recommend that you create a price log in a small notebook to record the best price of your favorite products at each store, as well as the coupons you receive throughout the year. This will help you learn the sale trends and know what the best grocery bargains really are. Again this is going to take some time to do but it will be worth it in the end.
#4 When items are on a buy-2 for one-price sale, such as 2 boxes of cereal for $4.00, it is usually not necessary to buy two to get the sale price. (ie you’d only pay $2.00 for the one box instead of whatever the regular price is) If you use the item regularly and will need to buy more before they go on sale again (possibly in just a few weeks) go ahead and buy as many as you need. And save even more by matching the sale with a coupon! But if you only need one box of cereal, or whatever the item is, then just buy one. The money you save by not purchasing that second item (just because it’s on sale) may be needed for something else that you might need more, such as milk, bread, produce, chicken, fish or meat. The point is: you don’t have to buy it simply because it’s on sale.
#5 One of the best ways to save more money with grocery coupons is to match them with items that are already on sale. Look through your weekly grocery store sale flyers (they often come in your “junk” mail on Wednesdays and are also available at the front of the store for free) to find matching items that you’d like to purchase. If you don’t have time to look through the weekly sale flyers just clip your coupons from the Sunday paper and match as you go! But, when matching sales with coupons, the same rule applies; sometimes it’s better to just buy one sale item instead of the two or more the store is hoping you’ll pick up. And if you have two coupons it’s okay to use both on a buy-2 for one-price sale, because you are purchasing two items! It might even be worth purchasing an extra Sunday newspaper to get a duplicate set of coupons; if a certain week has a lot of great coupons for products that you use often!
#6 Another way to maximize your savings while matching coupons with weekly sales is to shop at more than one grocery store. Since the stores do not run the same sales each week, you can often double your savings just by shopping at two stores instead of one. Now I’m not suggesting that you drive all the way across town to save a few more dollars, especially with the cost of gas these days, but if the stores are close to each other or you can combine your grocery shopping errands with other trips, it may not cost you any extra in gas. And you’re likely to save a lot more than just a few dollars! ;o) Grocery stores generally do not list everything they have on sale in their weekly sale flyers, so, while matching your grocery coupons to the store flyers is a huge help, there will also be some additional sales you may want to match with. You have two options here, simply bring your coupon organizer with you to the store each week, OR, clip the coupons from the Sunday paper and take only the ones you care to use with you to the store. Your coupons will most often match with sale items during the grocery store’s current sale for that week! Which of course adds up to more savings$$!
#7 If you’re unable to shop at more than one grocery store each week to maximize your coupon savings just be sure to shop at a store that offers price matching. Let’s say you have some great coupons for several items that are only on sale at the ‘other store.’ By asking for a price match, you’ll not only get the best sale prices for both stores, but you’ll also be able to match those sale prices with your coupons!
#8 Groceries are not the only items that have coupons! Take the time to look through those department store inserts in your Sunday newspapers and you’re likely to find some great offers, especially during the holiday season. In the past I’ve received coupons for a $10 ToysRus gift card (with a $75 purchase), a $10 JCPenney coupon (with a $50 purchase), a $5 coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond (with a $15 purchase), a $10 coupon for Belk (with a $10 purchase), and a 50% off coupon for any one regular priced item at Michael’s craft store! These little gems aren’t always available so my advice is to check every week. Also take a minute to look through the circular sales flyers that come in the mail. Sometimes these have coupons on them as well. You can even find coupons for oil changes, tire rotation and alignment, AC repair. There are even coupons available for restaurants in your area, you just have to keep your eyes open. Oh and don’t forget to check your favorite magazines for coupons too, this is a great place to find deals on health and beauty products. :)
#9 Discount stores that offer one stop shopping like Wal Mart not only take coupons but they do price matching as well. So if you are a committed Wal Mart shopper but want to take advantage of some of the deals your local grocery store is running, take the sale flyer along with you and let the cashier know while you’re checking out that you are wanting a price match on the selected items. Oh, and don’t forget to use your coupons too!
#10 When grocery stores have a Grand Opening for a new location be sure to stop by and pick up their big sale items. They usually have some really LOW, LOW, prices during the first week, or even the first month. Also, register for prizes if they’re being offered, you never know when you might win and most often the top prizes are FREE groceries!
This last tip is ideal for all of you who just really don’t have the spare time it takes to clip, and organize coupons.
# 11 Play the Grocery Game online. In case your not familiar with it, The Grocery Game is a website that can save you hundreds of dollars on your grocery bill each month. Log in, spend a few minutes with a pair of scissors, and you’re off to win the money saving game! This is how it works, when you play, you’ll get a weekly list (called Teri’s List) of the lowest-priced products at your supermarket matched with manufacturers’ coupons and weekly specials — advertised and unadvertised. The Grocery Game does all the hard work and research, and presents it to you in a straightforward format. The Grocery Game eliminates the time-consuming hours and you can usually save even more than the coupon pros who spend hours coupon clipping and sale matching For example, just because an item is on sale doesn’t mean its time to play your coupon. The websites databases track the sales history on nearly every item in the supermarket, waiting to use a coupon on rock-bottom sales. Now, the best possible savings are quickly accessible to busy professionals, overworked moms, single adults or anyone who wants to cut their grocery bill by 50% or even more. Basically, the site is designed to maximize coupon savings through the use of an up-to-date price database. It’s not a free service, though. The Grocery Game costs $10 every eight weeks, but: the four week trial period is available for just $1 and the money you’ll save on groceries will more then make up for the membership fee. Try it out at www.thegrocerygame.com.
So yes it REALLY is possible to save money on practically everything you buy on a weekly basis. The most important thing to remember is that you have to be committed and you MUST keep your coupons organized and in one place. I recommend purchasing a coupon organizer (a plastic folder that opens to create several different pockets), available at virtually any office supply store or in the stationary section at department stores like Target or Wal-Mart. Each pocket is labeled by the type of coupon (ie: Dairy,Bread & Cereals, Snacks etc..) this makes the sorting process much easier and locating the coupon once you’re ready to use it.
Here are a few websites that offer printable coupons to get you started. You can also go directly to the product website to get coupons.