Using Coupons – It’s Easier Than You Think

I often post photos of shopping trips on my Facebook wall.  I take a picture of the items purchased, how much I spent, and I often give a coupon match-up below so that others can save money too.  I get asked how I did that by family and friends often.  I hear a lot of proclamations that it’s too much work.  My theory on many chores and household duties we complete is that you often have to choose between time and money.  I don’t have a lot of money, so I have to make time.

I’ve done a couple of post about coupons.  Here you can read all about the basics and how to get started.  There are tons of Facebook groups out there full of people willing to help you and give you advice and tips.  Coupons are like FREE money.  Seriously, you can get items for free or for really cheap and do it entirely legally.  I don’t know about you, but my family needs any extra money I can put into our budget.  I am not someone who buys twenty papers or clears shelves.  I have one Sunday paper delivered to my house every week.  I get leftover coupons from a family member, and I print coupons online.  If there is a paper with coupons for products my family uses a lot of, I will buy another paper on Sunday.

I cut coupons on Sunday mornings when I get my paper and at that time I clean out any expired coupons.  I do coupon match-ups for drug stores with my Sunday paper and I do coupon match-ups for grocery stores on Wednesdays when the new ad comes out.  I also do a short match-up on Friday morning for Harris Teeter as they release their E-Vic specials then which means extra savings on select items.  Some weeks, I spend no more than one to two hours on coupon clipping and organizing.  Other weeks, I may spend upward of six, it really just depends on what deals are out and how much I want to look for them.  I will tell you that any time I have spent couponing, I have yet to regret.  I only buy items my family needs.  If it’s a product we don’t like or won’t use, I leave it for someone who will.

Before coupons, I made a grocery list of only the items we needed for the week and then I searched to see if those items were on sale anywhere.  That’s how most people do their shopping, but it isn’t the best way to save money.  If you customize at least some of your meal plans to foods that are on sale, you can save a lot of money.  When I find a really good sale on cereal that means I can get it for $1 or less, I stock up on cereal.  It is something my kids eat every single day and it has a lonnnggg shelf life so it’s not going to go to waste in my house.  I don’t care if we already have twenty boxes, if I can get twenty more for cheap, I’m going to get it.  I have not yet had a single box expire before my kids could gobble it up.  The same goes for any shelf-stable food.  If your family will eat it and you use a lot of it, stock up for cheap when you can.

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I love to stock up on beauty and healthcare items as well.  Shampoo, conditioner, hair stylers, deodorant, razors, and feminine care items can often be found for free or really cheap.  Now, back to that “I only buy what we need” motto.  If you read my blog, you know I only use cloth pads and a reusable cup.  So why would I buy pads and tampons, even if they’re free?  I have extended family who can use them.  There are shelters who can also use them.  I love sustainable reusable products, but I can’t convert everyone.  So if I can get something for free, even if I don’t use it, I CAN give it to family who will use it, or a shelter where it can be given to someone who NEEDS it.  Not only can couponing be beneficial for your own family, you can use coupons to help others in need.  That’s a good feeling.

How do you get things for free with coupons?  You look for sales.  Buy one get one sales are normally a good place to start.  If the item rings up half price, your coupon is stretching further.  I prefer grocery stores that double coupons.  That is twice the value, making items even cheaper.  Where I live, Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods are pretty much the only stores who double coupons up to $0.99.  I’m a big Harris Teeter shopper.  They do Super Doubles every few weeks where they’ll double coupons up to $2.00 and they also offer E-Vic coupons I can load to my store card and stack on top of paper coupons.  That all adds up to BIG savings.  When you have a $3.00 manufacturer’s coupon and a $3 E-Vic coupon on any two shampoos/conditioners, that is $6 off the items.  That is a lot of savings and if the items are on sale, you could very well get them for free.

Drug stores like CVS offer rewards for purchasing certain items.  These rewards print as coupons for a certain dollar amount off a future purchase.  So if you buy a few of the items that give rewards, you could end up spending all those rewards on another cart full of items and get them for free or really cheap.  The other really nice part – most of the items that offer rewards are items that you’ll often have a coupon for.  And you can totally stack those coupons with those rewards to save a lot of money.

Now, what if you don’t have time to sit down and match-up coupons to sales ads?  Can you still coupon?  Of course!!  Facebook groups that cater to couponing will often have members who post match-ups.  You can find weekly match-ups at sites like SouthernSavers.com and online chat boards like WeUseCoupons.  They do all that time-consuming matching up FOR YOU and they do it for free!  So all you have to do it clip the coupons, put them in your binder, and shop.  Seriously…it can be that easy.

In closing, I want to tell you that if you use coupons, your house will not look like a hoarder lives there.  You will not live off processed junky food.  There are coupons for snacks yes, but there are coupons for almond milk, produce, and healthy foods as well.

My laundry products are stored on a neat shelf above my washer and dryer.  My hair products, razors, soap, deodorants are stored in my linen closet or the shelf of a medicine cabinet.  I have two shelves in the utility room devoted to our ‘over-flow’ items like snacks, juice, and cereal.  So whatever won’t fit in our cabinets at the time goes there.  It’s neatly organized, not a crazy mess.  It does pay to be organized when you coupon.  It is also nice to not have to run out to the store when you need something and have it stocked, ready for use.

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