My couponing adventure started early – helping my mother clip grocery coupons on Sunday afternoons. We clipped them for things that we used, stashed them in a coupon caddy and, when we ran out of a product, exchanged them for a small savings.
One evening, a friend invited me to a couponing class. I almost didn’t go. I figured I already used coupons, what else was there to learn? But, having no other plans I decided to go. And what I learned was life changing!
Here are the top couponing tips I learned
1) Buy on sale
If nothing else, buy things when they are on sale.
Sales tend to happen in cycles (usually every 6-8 weeks) so buy enough to carry you over to the next sale.
2) Save time, check a local or regional coupon website
These websites post what are called “match-ups.” They scan local sales ads and match-up each item in the sale to any available coupons and where you can find the coupons.
This saves me a TON of time! I simply read down the sale list for the store I plan to shop, copy anything I want to buy, and look for the corresponding coupons.
Many stores vary their sales by geography so you’ll want to search for local match-up sites.
To find a local / regional coupon website, do a search for “Type Your City coupon match ups”.
*Time Saving Tip: Searching locally saves you time by showing you match-ups only for ads in your area. *
3) Prepare for BOGO deals – clip or print coupons in pairs (2, 4, 6, etc)
This applies to both printable coupons and coupons from the newspaper.
This is to take advantage of BOGO sales – many stores treat each of the 2 items as an individual item. So when you shop a BOGO deal you can use 1 coupon on each of the 2 items. You’ll want to check with your store about their coupon policy.
For me, this meant I would need 2 Sunday paper subscriptions (what a great way to support a dying industry!).
*Time Saving Tip: From each newspaper, I pull out the coupon inserts and, in hanging file folders, file the inserts in chronological order so I can find coupons faster when I need them*
4) Combine store and manufacturer coupons
Before going to this coupon class, I never noticed there were 2 types of coupons!
For each item you buy, you can combine a store coupon with a manufacturer coupon for bigger savings.
But, Penny, doesn’t Couponing take a long time?
No, it doesn’t have to! I now spend less time shopping than before I started couponing.
I spend roughly 1 hour each week creating my shopping list and gathering the coupons and less than an hour doing the actual shopping – I just follow what is on my list and head home!
Before this I would “run to the store” several times a week – wasting way more time.
*Time Saving Tip: I mostly only go to 1 grocery store. I’ve found that doing this at several stores is just too time consuming.*
How much did you really save with grocery coupons?
As the spreadsheet junkie that I am, I wanted to make double sure that couponing was worth my time.
I estimated that between the coupon savings – on food, toiletries, household products, pet products, and more – and my husband and I packing our lunches a few extra days a week (since we had more food now), our annual savings reached close to $5,000 that first year!
This has absolutely opened us up to new opportunities that have really helped our bottom line.
Responsible Coupon Use
A word of caution – coupons are legally treated like cash and coupon fraud is a serious offence.
Only use coupons from reliable sources and be cautious of websites or people trying to sell coupons.
Legitimate, free coupons are the smartest way to go.