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How to feed your family on next to nothing

Updated on January 15, 2010
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Sunshine is a wife, mother of four, a relationship expert, a journalist, a photographer, a public speaker, and author.

Everyone has tried to clip coupons and save money, but without knowing how to do it, you’re destined to be another person who throws their arms in the air and says, “I just can’t do this!”

There are three kinds of shoppers:

People who don’t care that they are spending 75% more than they should on average.

People who clip coupons with good intentions, and forget to bring them to the store.

Coupon Divas, or people who study the store ads, clip coupons, print coupons, organize,  and feed their family on practically nothing.

Becoming a Coupon Diva takes practice, education, and trial-and-error.  Here are some general tips to help you get started:

  1. Stacking coupons-Did you know that you can use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon on the same item?  Believe it!  I know it sounds crazy, but let’s pretend your favorite local store has an in-store coupon in their ad for Ritz crackers, 2 for $4, and you have 2 coupons for $1 off Ritz Crackers.  If you use the in-store coupon with the manufacturer’s coupon, you’ve just purchased 2 boxes of Ritz crackers for $2, making them a buck each.  It feels like stealing, but it’s not.  The store is still getting paid on those coupons, and many manufacturers even give them spiffs for the amount they sell.
  2. Organize your coupons-Everyone has the perfect way to organize coupons.  How you do it is up to you.  If you want to retro fit all of those coupons to a baseball card binder insert, have at it.  I clip them and organize them in an accordion check file.   In the file are alphabetically arranged envelopes in sections, such as food, bathroom, paper products, and so on.  The key is to know where your coupons are so that you can access them easily when comparing to store ads.
  3. Store ads-Study them every week.  Most papers have them on Tuesdays and Sundays.  Don't use your clipped coupons on anything that isn't already on sale.  One big change to get used to is basing your weekly menu on sales and coupons rather than what you want.  Organize the coupons you want to use in each store.  Watch for double coupons in ads from stores like Safeway and Albertsons.  Safeway’s are up to fifty cents, and Albertson’s are up to $1.  Let’s think back to the Ritz crackers.  If you had an Albertsons double coupon for each of your manufacturer’s coupons, your crackers would be free.  Yes, you can use an in-store coupon, a manufacturer’s coupon, and a double coupon all on the same item.
  4. Printable coupons-register with sites that offer printable coupons.  Do not print out every coupon you find, because you will pay more in paper and ink than in you will save.  Sit in front of your computer with your store ads and print out what you'll need.  If you’re registered with them, most will send updates to your email making it easier to keep track of them, and they stay on the site until you’ve used them or they expire, so you won’t loose them.
  5. Cellfire coupons-don't let them intimidate you, there are no hidden fees for them.  Send them to your phone and show the cashier.  They will make it painless.
  6. Load your cards-many store sites such as have an option to add coupons to your membership card.  This means, when you purchase the item, the discount comes off at the register when your card is scanned.  Do keep a list of your coupons on your card so that you can remember to use them.
  7. Read your coupons-make sure you know if there is a limit.  Many store coupons let you purchase multiples with one coupon, and they will say what the limit is.  You will need one manufacturer's coupon for each if you are stacking coupons.  Go through your coupons often to weed out expired coupons.  Nothing is worse than being excited about a super deal only to find out your coupon is expired.
  8. Register Rewards-Some stores, such as Wallgreens, have Register Rewards, meaning that if you purchase a certain item, you will receive a reward coupon to use on your next transaction.  So, if Aussie shampoo is on sale for $3, and you get a $3 reward coupon good on your next visit, you've hit the jackpot, because you can go to the register again with another bottle of shampoo, and it's free with the reward coupon, and guess what?  You get another reward coupon for purchasing the shampoo.  You can keep going and going, getting free bottles of shampoo at every Wallgreens in town!  Now, rewards are often not that good, but if you watch the ads closely, you will find that it does happen from time to time.
  9. Single Check Rebates-Some stores such as RiteAid will send rebate checks when you purchase qualifying products and enter the information from the receipt on line.  These take more time, but the savings add up.
  10. Don't rule out department stores-Stores like Khols send out coupons all the time.  I receive $10 coupons about once every month, and they are good on clearance items too.  I purchased a coat that was normally sixty dollars during a power hour sale with a $10 off coupon, and walked out with it for less than $20.  Often times, I find something for one of my kids on the clearance rack for just over ten dollars, and they can get a name-brand item, and I pay less than a dollar.  That's good shopping!

There is a lot to learn, and you won't get it right away, but with some studying and trial and error, savings are significant.  I average spending $25 on every $100 of groceries purchased, including diapers, wipes, sundries, and household items.  The time commitment is about 4 hours per week for reading ads, organizing coupons, and going to stores. Join the revolution of coupon shoppers, and feel the excitement of sharing what you saved with others.

What kind of shopper are you?

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      Kellee 7 years ago

      Great article. CVS down here is excellent for coupons, located several places around the store are little scanners. You scan your rewards card at any of them and it prints out the coupons of the day, and usually special ones like spend $5 get $2 off.