By now I think most people have seen or heard of ‘extreme couponing’. While the show isn’t entirely realistic – most stores have a limit on how many similar items you can use a coupon for as well as how many coupons you can use in a trip – you can save a lot with coupons. I am not ‘extreme’, but I do enjoy using coupons and how much money they save my family. As a stay-at-home-mom I feel like part of my job is to save money since I’m not bringing any in. I take that seriously because it means money I save can help us get ahead or do something fun.
I sometimes post photos of my coupon trips on my Facebook page with the price I paid for all of it. People are often intrigued and many times I get the “I need to learn to do that” response. Luckily, it’s not hard. While my sister was the first person to show me how to coupon to save big, I had used coupons before that on a smaller scale. Here are my tips to get started.
- Get yourself a coupon binder. It doesn’t have to be fancy, I use a cheap 1″ binder with baseball card sleeves. I made myself a cover for it that has pen pockets and a pocket for the coupons I pull to use during the trip.
- Put dividers in your binder for the different sections in the grocery store. In the front I keep a baseball sleeve for coupons specific to one store. I have a sleeve foreach of the grocery stores in my area that give store specific coupons. I do big sections for all the other coupons and then break those down even further. Feel free to personalize your sections to meet your shopping needs. My sections are:
- Baby Care
- Personal Care
- Department Store
- Baby Care
- Sign up for a Sunday paper that offers coupons. We have just the Sunday paper delivered to our home. If you don’t want to subscribe, you can go by one of the paper vending machines each Sunday. If you find several coupons that you know you’ll use, buy another paper or two. There are typically no coupons for holiday weeks.
- Ask family and friends to save coupons they won’t use for you. I get a big stack almost weekly.
- Print coupons online.
- Sign up online to receive your local grocery stores’ ads via email. Many grocery stores offer e-coupons that take even more off your order and some even offer special e-customer pricing. Most of these are in conjunction with manufacturer’s coupons so you are doubling, or even tripling, your savings.
- Do your coupon match-ups BEFORE you shop. This is the best way to find the most deals. You can sit down with the in store ads and match up, or you can ‘cheat’ and do it all online. One thing I like to do is go to the store’s online shopping site. Many stores offer this now and while I don’t actually ‘shop’ online, I type in products I have coupons for and price them out. Then I go to excel and make myself a grocery list with the item, price, coupon amount, any double coupon amount, store coupon amount, and final price. This way I KNOW what it will cost me before I go into the store. Not every store offers this and it’s okay if they don’t. You can get the same info from their weekly ads.
- There are also many websites that match up coupons for you. My favorite is Southern Savers.
- Know the coupon policies for the stores you shop at. Some stores double coupons up to a certain dollar amount and some don’t. Some stores accept competitor coupons and some will take a manufacturer coupon AND a store coupon for the same item. Some don’t do any of this. Policies will typically be on the store website, or you can ask for it at customer service. Just know your policies for each store so you can make sure you’re getting the most savings.
- Read your coupons. They will tell you what limitations are placed on the coupon. Sometimes they are specific to one product in that brands, sometimes any product in the brand applies. Many times you will be required to buy two or more of the item to use the coupon. Don’t try to use your coupons on items they are not intended for. It’s fraud and the stores machine will kick the coupon out anyway.
- “Like items” means multiples of that item. If the coupon says it’s limited to four like items, you can only buy four of those in one trip. However, many stores have a lower limit such as two or three like items. So you need to know both the coupon and store policy.
- If a store is having a Super Double or Triple Coupon savings event TAKE ADVANTAGE. This is how you get things for free, or really cheap. Super Doubles will vary from store to store, but around here they typically mean the store will double coupons up to $2. Normally those stores only double up to $0.99 or less so that’s a lot of extra savings that can add up quick.
There are also Facebook groups for shopping at certain stores and many online communities for couponing support and guidance. I know it all seems scary, but it isn’t. Who doesn’t love saving money?