Nothing gives me a bigger adrenaline rush than to look at the “Your Savings This Trip” line at the bottom of my grocery receipt. I review each line of my receipt and bask in the glory of getting a box of pasta for $0.10. I think I have a large enough addiction to saving money to become an extreme couponer, but my practical side doesn’t see the need to have 14 bottles of mustard in my pantry when I know my family will only use one every 6 months.
There are a couple of tips I’ve picked up to help me use coupons effectively, without starting a hoard of BBQ sauce that will expire before I use it.
1. Only clip the coupons for the products you use. It is tempting to clip every coupon, but you end up buying products you don’t use, and even if you only paid $0.60 for it, you just wasted $0.60. Occasionally I’ll try a different brand because it is on sale and I have a coupon, but I don’t clip coupons for products I wouldn’t normally buy.
2. Coupon swap. In Step 1 I said don’t clip the coupons for things you don’t normally buy. Don’t just throw away the coupons, swap your unused coupons with a friend. Chances are they have coupons they don’t need for products you buy every week.
3. Make a List and Stick to It! We’ve already established I am a list-a-holic, but to keep your grocery budget in tact, a list is a MUST. I go as far as to put my list in the order I’ll come across the products in the grocery store to minimize my time in the store and the likelihood to add additional items to my cart. My children have it drilled into their heads that if it is not on the list, it doesn’t go in the cart. They don’t even ask anymore.
4. Read the Sale papers. Use the local sale papers to create your list. We eat healthy at our house, and often coupons are only for pantry items. It is rare to see a coupon for fresh fruit or meat. I shop at two different grocery stores each week. One store I can normally snag marked down meat and sometimes fruit and vegetables early in the morning so we are able to eat great meals (ribs, pork chops, organic chicken) for about 50% of the normal cost (you just have to use it or freeze it the day you buy it). I use the sale paper to also add any BOGO free items I need that week. The other store has the majority of the BOGO free items that keep my pantry stocked. I normally hit both stores on the same morning and because of my superior list-making skills (ha-ha!), can be back home within 1 1/2 hours.
5. Know the Coupon Policy for Each Store. I found out about a year ago that one of the two stores I shop in will allow a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon on the same product. Even more, the store will accept competitor store coupons as their own. You also do not have to buy two of a product to take advantage of their BOGO free offers. You just pay 1/2 price. What does this mean? Let’s say boxes of pasta are normally $1.20, but are BOGO free. I have a manufacturer coupon for $.25 off one box. I also print a competitor store coupon off the internet for $.25 off one box. I buy one box at $.60, then use both the manufacturer coupon and the store coupon, and only pay $.10 for the box of pasta. In the words of my 4 year old, “TaDa”!!
Some stores will accept competitor coupons and some don’t. Also, not all stores will give you the same price on a BOGO free offer if you only buy one. Sometimes, you have to get both to get the deal. Know what you are spending before you make your list. Most stores make their coupon policies available online, but it never hurts to ask if you have any questions.
6. Take Advantage of the “Extras.” Signing up for a frequent shopper card can be a hassle, but now I feel naked if I leave home without mine. One of the two grocery stores I frequent gives you a $.10/gallon discount at the gas pump for each $100 spent in groceries. I end up with one, sometimes two fill-ups per month at a discount, which helps out on my gas budget. You also have pharmacy stores, like CVS, which offers savings and discounts if you use your frequent shopper card. You can use these discounts on top of manufacturer coupons (and competitor store coupons). This process is how you can end up buying 4 bottles of shampoo for $0.15 per bottle.
So, you must suppress your inner desire to grab “as many” deals as you can, but strategize to spend the least amount of money for the things your family needs (and maybe a few wants). Reduce the amount of money you would have spent ANYWAY had you not looked for good deals or clipped coupons. Happy Shopping!