- Personal Finance
How to Stop Overspending with Coupons
Clip This.................... Not That
Clipping coupons can be a great way to save money on groceries. There are a gazillion blogs and news stories about frugal housewives (and househusbands) whose vigilant eyes and diligent scissors save their families thousands of dollars each year.
They make it seem really easy. Just buy their books or read their blogs, learn their secrets, shave 50% off your grocery bill and take a tropical vacation with your yearly savings.
Before you subscribe to the Sunday paper and clear your dining room table for some serious clipping action, review these simple tips to keep your couponing on track and maximize your grocery savings.
1. Clip what you'll use.
Remember - if you're following a serious coupon regimen, what you clip is what you'll buy. Proper meal planning requires you to build a list and stick to it.
Clipping unnecessary coupons can lead you to purchase wonderful bargains you don't want or need.
If your pantry floor or basement storeroom contains stacks of canned tuna, or your freezer overflows with frozen green beans, buying more - no matter how cheaply - won't save money or make your shopping more frugal.
If you don't use it, you might as well donate it to charity. The tax write-off will help you recoup some of your losses.
2. Use what you clip
Using what you purchase is essential.
You save money with coupons by substituting cheaper, couponed food items for more expensive full-price foodstuffs. If you're buying bargains, but never using them, you're wasting your time and money.
On triple-coupon day, tomato paste was only 10 cents a can. Now that you have 10 cans, it's time to plan tomato-based soups, sauces and sandwiches that replace more more expensive meals.
Remember- substitution equals savings.
Browse Amazon coupons
3. Focus couponing on non-perishable essentials
Focus on non-perishable essentials. Spend most of your couponing time on reducing the cost of non-perishable household essentials like laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid and aluminum foil. These types of items maximize your household savings for two reasons.
- You need them. Unless you're making your own organic substitutes like Borax and washing soda, you're going to buy them and use them on a regular basis.
- You can store them until you need them. These items won't rot or spoil -even when kept for weeks, months or even years. Stock up on non-perishable essentials when they're cheap, and use them frugally so you won't run out before the next sale. With careful couponing and diligent economizing, you'll never pay $3 for soap again.
Browse Gourmet Staples at Warehouse Prices
4. Buy the basics
The basics are the building blocks of healthy meals. They're the inexpensive carbs that disappear beneath jazzy herbs, awesome sauce and hunks of juicy animal flesh. Beans, rices, pastas and flours form the basis of most dishes, no matter how sophisticated.
What makes them really great is that these ingredients are extremely versatile and virtually interchangeable. Unless you're an outrageous gouramand(e) curry chicken on a bed of basmati rice is as good as jasmine rice, is as good as plain old brown rice in a super-size bag reduced to $1 through 3 coupons and an end-of-month sale.
Order fancy-schmany staples online.
Grocery stores charge a hefty mark-up for gourmet items that don't sell well.
Order gourmet foods from Amazon, and look for items with free Super-Saver shipping. Amazon warehouses won't ship expired or spoiled goods. You're assured of world-class quality at a price well below what you pay at your local retailer or at big-box warehouse stores like Costco, BJs and Sam's Club.
Buy This ................... Not That
5. Skip the sauces
Barbecue sauces, pasta sauce and marinades seem like a great deal - particularly when couponing reduces them to half-price or less.
The reduction is deceptive. Even the amazing coupon price that's a small fraction of their original cost is much greater than buying the basics and mixing the sauce yourself.
Instead of a $2 jar of chunky vegetable sauce, grab a small container of peppers and mushrooms from the salad bar. Mix with a can of tomato sauce from the pantry and Voila! Chunky tomato sauce at much less than your extreme couponing price. From a health perspective, you'll also come out ahead.
Tomato sauce mixed with fresh veggies has more veggies, less sodium and fewer preservatives than the store-bought jar with a 2-year shelf life.
For barbecue sauce, try a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar mixed with one can of tomato sauce and the spice blend of your choice.
Even if the original flavor isn't great, the essential cooking elements are there. Vinegar tenderizes the meat. Tomato sauce cuts the vinegar's acidity. The liquid keeps the meat from drying while the fat renders and meat self-moisturizes.
Egregious errors aside, the juices of the marinated meats and the carmelized fat bits make the final product savory and amazing regardless of the original sauce. Just don't serve bowls of sauce on the side.