I get asked often how I use coupons to save money for my family. And I admit that I used to use them occasionally and then stopped using them all together. Suddenly being a full time stay at home mom trying to feed a family of 3 with one income I realized I needed to get creative. That means making more meals from scratch, trying new lower cost recipes, and cutting those coupons again.
Using coupons is somewhat of a game. You always start out slow and as you become more knowledgeable of the in’s and out’s, you start to really save money.
To first start using coupons you are going to want to get your Sunday paper. I personally do not subscribe to one but rather drive into town each Sunday and buy a paper. Also printable coupon websites like Coupons.com, RedPlum and Smart Source should become your friends. Many couponers will purchase more than one Sunday paper to get multiple copies of the coupons they want. You can even preview what coupons will be in your Sunday paper here.
While shopping be sure to watch for peelies (coupons on the product), hangtags under the product and blinking machines near the products.
The number one rule when getting into coupons is, just because you have a coupon for a product, it does not make it a good deal! Lets say you have a coupon for $1 off any 2 frozen meals. These meals are priced around $7 to $9 each. $1 off is not that great of a deal and you have no promise that you will even like the item.
Secondly you cannot always be brand loyal. Now trust me I understand that there are some items that we will remain brand loyal on no matter what. For our family it is deodorant, toothpaste, sanitary napkins, and syrup to name a few. I will no matter what always purchase a certain brand of deodorant even if I don’t have a coupon for it.
This brings us to the third point. Sales on items always go in cycles. Always! Some people have found that it helps them to write down the date and store when they last got an item on sale. Then wait. Eventually this same item is going to go on sale again. Was it one month later, 6 months later? Lets say this item goes on sale again in 3 months. At that point it is safe to assume that in another 3 months it will go on sale again. So you stockpile. You find coupons if you can and you stock up on that one item to get you through until the next time it goes on sale. Take the deodorant that I am brand loyal to. On a recent shopping trip I saw that our local grocery store had it on sale for $1 each. Normally I pay $2.50 to $3 each. Now even though I did not need this deodorant right then I knew I would eventually use it. $8 later and I have enough deodorant to last me for close to a year for the same price as I would normally pay for 2.
Be organized with your coupons. It is hard enough if you are a mom shopping with your kids in the first place. If your not a mom then keeping your coupons organized and keeping a list of what you want to purchase will work. (Keep a list and keep to your list, unless you forgot to add bread). My method is a simple envelope where I keep all my coupons. Each week I do a rough meal plan and a shopping list based on my meal plan. Then I sit down at the computer, look up store ads to see what is on sale and go through the coupons I have. If I plan to buy an item and use a coupon for it I write a C next to the item on my shopping list. Then I know when I am at the store, I need to pull that coupon out to use at the register.
Now that you have a stockpile of coupons it’s time to match them up to the sales ad’s. Each week it seems as if the same coupons come around so you should have at least 3 coupons for dish washing liquid when it finally goes on sale for .99. Being aware of the sales is really the key to making all of this work. If you just go to the store with your coupons and there isn’t a sale price on the item then the Palmolive you just bought for 2.85 with the .25 coupon didn’t really save you money. You have to watch for the sales, every 2-3 months they will come around on the same items.
And lastly, if you have coupons for an item and they are on sale, stockpile! Even if you only have one coupon for the item, as long as it is on sale, stock up! One month down the road if you pay $4 for a product that was on sale a month ago for $2 you have not really saved any money.
I will do another Coupon posts later that will talk about stacking coupons, finding the best deals and how to really make your coupons work for you!