How to Save Money WITHOUT Coupons

Some months back I got a new roomy, yet stylish, purse. I was excited about it because now I would be able to accommodate all the things a young mother might need for three active children plus a bit of my own stuff too. One of the things I decided that I could finally add to my purse was my coupon pouch.

I received this "pouch" for coupons several years before and had dutifully filled it with coupons as I found them. The coupons went unused. I told myself that this was primarily because I never had the coupons with me. I would always forget them when it was time to go to the store and many times I would just not foresee that I'd have a need for them. I imagined all the money that was wasted because I couldn't remember to use my carefully collected coupons.

So I started putting my coupon pouch in my new purse and waited for the savings to roll in. Over my next few trips to the store, however, I realized that my hopes and dreams of all the money I'd save were unfounded.

On any given trip to the grocery store, I've found that coupons don't end up saving that much money. I end up leaving the store with many of the coupons still in that handy little pouch. This bothered me until I realized that I could still manage to save money.

Now I don't waste my time clipping coupons that only slightly lower prices on already expensive brand name products. I don't worry about having to buy more than one of a product just to get savings from a coupon. And I don't have to sort through all those coupons for things I don't need.

Instead I use the following guidelines when I grocery shop:

- Buy generic or store brand products.

Most stores have their own products and/or a quality generic brand now. These products are usually quite comparable to the name brand. With the exception of a few items (toilet paper, diapers, maxi pads/tampons) that I won't compromise on, I'll usually try out any generic or store brand at least once. And I'm usually pleasantly surprised!

- Participate in store programs that offer additional savings, coupons and discounts - like Food Lion's MVP card.

These programs are great time savers because they often automatically generate coupons for you based on the things you actually do purchase. A chain of local stores here in Virginia sends you these coupons on a regular basis in the mail. These programs also allow you to take advantage of savings on various items around the store. Your store program card serves as the coupon itself. So no time wasted on searching and clipping!

- Shop smart by comparing prices and buying in bulk where it makes sense.

Many stores have price tags on their shelves that provide great cost comparison tools. On some shelf stickers or on the items themselves you can find cost per unit, cost per ounce, or cost per pound information. Use these to your advantage. Compare what you'll be getting for your money on a cost per ___ basis. You may be surprised to found out that what you thought was an inexpensive product is not really that cheap when looked at in this way. Comparing prices like this can be especially helpful with products that make sense as bulk purchases (toilet paper, detergent, diapers, or other non-perishables)

- Don't buy what you don't need.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't splurge every once in a while. Sometimes splurging is just necessary. But many times it is not. If you're trying to save money, take a good hard look at what you NEED to have versus what you WANT to have. You may just be surprised at what you can go without. And it might just be a healthier choice for you too.

- Time it right.

Have you ever wandered into the grocery store on a Saturday night? Ever coasted in early Monday morning? I don't typically frequent groceries stores during those hours either, however, when I do I know I'm going to find some good deals. Our favorite local grocery store puts many of its meats and prepared foods on sale at those hours. So get familiar with your favorite grocery store. Find out when they typically put items on sale, make a note on your calendar to be there, and rack up the savings!

- Use coupons when it suits you.

I don't waste my time seeking out coupons. I'd recommend that you not waste yours either. But when coupons are there for the taking - no clipping required! - I will occasionally take advantage of them. They are especially good for those "splurge" items or products you use on a regular basis. As long as you don't waste time on those coupons that don't really save any money, you should be in good shape.

The point of all this is really that if you make an effort and pay a little bit more attention when you shop, you'll save more money on your own than coupons ever could. So make good shopping choices and save money WITHOUT the coupon hassle - and without the coupon pouch!

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