7 Steps That Guarantee a Successful Couponer
I never worried too much about coupons. In fact, I was always that woman whom, IF I even bothered to clip a coupon, chances are it sat somewhere unnoticed, and eventually passed its expiration date.
It wasn't until recently, when our family started growing and our income began dwindling, that I realized the true value of a coupon. The power of one little square piece of paper. Serious couponing takes practice, and dedication. Lots of dedication. Let's be honest, more than likely in your first few go-around's you won't be able to walk into a store, grab over $250 worth of groceries, and walk out having only spent $0.90. However, as the old adage goes, "Practice Makes Perfect," so remember the more you work at it the more you will save.
Below are some vital tips I have learned along my voyage. Put them into motion and you will become more successful at couponing. The nice thing is, you won't need an extra storage room for unnecessary groceries in order to save big with these tips!
Do You Enjoy Shopping At Walmart?
First and foremost, if you can afford it, subscribe to your local newspaper. If you are given the option for subscribing to only the weekend papers that's generally all you need. Store inserts can always be found inside them and you'll usually locate a ton of great coupons there. If you have access to a printer go online for your coupons. Here are some great web sites that are found useful by advanced shoppers:
Also, be sure to google web sites for ones that are focused specifically on your local grocery store. For example, if you are local to Publix don't miss the time and life-saving site, www.IHeartPublix.com-- a site that was started by a stay-at-home mom who offers some wonderful shopping tips, along with free coupons. She also includes tips and coupons for other stores aside from Publix. So be sure to complete a search for your local grocery store! You may be surprised to see what you find.
You're going to feel as if you're back in school, once you finish studying up on all of the different terminology. But try to familiarize yourself with these terms because they will come in handy:
BOGO/B1G1 = Buy One Get One
CATALINA = A coupon that is printed at the register after your purchase
CRT = Customer Receipt Tape
DND = Do not Double
DOUBLE COUPON = A coupon that the grocery store doubles in value
FAR = Free After Rebate
MIR = Mail In Rebate
OOP = Out of Pocket
Peelie = A coupon that you can find and peel off the packaged source
STACKING = Certain stores allow the multiple use of coupons – combine manufacturer’s & store coupons or rebates for extra savings.
TEAR PAD = A pad of coupons or machine-coupon dispenser that is near a product, or on display
WYB= When You Buy
3. COMPARE PRICES
When you see a coupon you may automatically assume that you're saving money, but beware! There can be certain times and stores where a coupon doesn't necessarily save you much money, if any at all. For example, one store may sell a stick of deodorant at a regular price of $4.50 and you have a coupon for that specific store, to save $.25 on that same deodorant. So, you walk out of the door with deodorant in hand, at the price of $4.25. You think you've done a good bargain shop, but hold on! Next door, that same stick of deodorant is being sold without a coupon for $4.09. Which store would you be saving money in: the one with a coupon or without?
In order to understand what you're saving, try to keep track of the original cost for products before coupons are applied. There are also price-comparison web sites available, which can help you reference whether you're getting the best product rate. You may also download applications to your iPhone or Android which will allow you to look up prices and compare within seconds, directly from the stores.
4. GET ORGANIZED
People use baseball card holders, binders with sheet protectors and tabs, and even index card holders, to organize their coupons. Choose whichever way is best suited to maintain your coupons--just stay organized! This will help you to ensure you get the most use out of your coupons. If you can't decide which rhythm to use, start by choosing whether you prefer to organize your coupons by category (which helps you save more money on one specific items as you need it) or expiration date (allows you to use as many coupons as you can before they become void).
Some people prefer to stock up on products before those items become necessary in the household. In that case, organizing by expiration date is the best way to go. However, you will want to make sure you have enough storage space for all of your groceries before you buy them! For everyone else, when you're not looking to stock up, organizing by category is generally more beneficial for you. Categories will help keep you limited to buying only what you need for the time being, and nothing more.
5. STORE POLICIES
Research, learn and know your store policies before trying to stack and/or use other merchandisers coupons in their store. There is nothing worse than holding up a line of shoppers while arguing with the cashier about the coupons that you were depending on. Some store coupon policies are listed online, while others may be located at the front of their store. If you're having trouble finding them, ask for a list of policies at the Guest Services counter. The best way to keep yourself refreshed is by maintaining a hard copy for each store that you often use, inside your binder/card box. Refresh your card(s) every year as stores tend to change their policies from time to time, depending on their increase/decrease in sales.
6. TIME MANAGEMENT
To be a serious couponer requires more time than you may realize. The amount of money you want to save is contingent with the amount of time you are willing to invest in your research. Most people typically don't have this kind of time, but you can still find coupons and save if you are willing to fit it into your schedule. Did you finish reading your favorite novel and run out of reading literature? Use whatever time you can get to read through the weekend inserts and browse web sites, clip coupons, and file them.
If you're a working mom, use your lunch breaks to look through them. If you're a single-mom or stay-at-home mom, get up 10 minutes earlier or go to bed 10 minutes later. The amount of priority you place on researching your coupons will decipher the size of your grocery bill.
Some women throw coupon parties! It's a great way to socialize, while doing something productive and sharing tips with each other. Grab a bottle of wine and make it a fun "momma's night!"
Just don't forget to do the actual shopping! This will be the most time-consuming portion. Extreme couponers go wherever the sales are, instead of doing all of their shopping in one place. Getting the best deal might require driving to 3 different supermarkets. But start with shopping at a single store so that you don't exhaust yourself before you even get the rhythm of things. Otherwise, you could end up spending an entire day shopping and arrive at home with melted cheese or curdled milk by the end of the day. Then, you'll never want to coupon again.
NOTE: Avoid shopping during peak hours (i.e. evenings, especially just after work, and weekends).
7. HAVE FUN!
Most importantly, enjoy your time couponing. Get exciting about saving yourself (and your family) money! Don't view it as a chore, or else it will never become a permanent part of your life. Think of the possible dream vacation you could take with the money you save, or stash away some extra cash for your child(ren)'s college fund. When you find a true reason for inspiration, it will give couponing a whole new meaning to your life. More than starting a new hobby or seeing it as a budget requirement, consider the fact that you're improving your life by wasting less money on food!