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 local coupon 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) If nothing else, purchase 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) Clip or print coupons in twos (2, 4, 6, etc) – either printable coupons and/or coupons from the newspaper. For me, this meant I would need 2 Sunday paper subscriptions (what a great way to support a dying industry!). This is to take advantage of BOGO sales – many stores treat each of the 2 items as an individual item, so when you buy 2 items in a BOGO deal you can use 1 coupon on each of the 2 items
3) Combine store and manufacturer coupons (I had never noticed there were 2 types of coupons before!). For each item purchased, you can combine the store coupon with the manufacturer coupon for bigger savings
4) And to simplify it all, check a local or regional coupon website. They post what are called “match-ups”. If you do a search for “Type Your City couponing” or “Type Your City coupon match ups” you’ll probably find a local or regional aggregator – this is so the match-ups are for the sales in your area and not someplace states away. In a match-up, each sale item, by store, is listed along with any coupons that you can use for the item. My shopping list is now just a copy/paste from these sites.
But, Penny, doesn’t Couponing take a long time?
No, it doesn’t have to! I now spend less time shopping. So, yes, there are couponers (that’s what we call ourselves) that go to multiple stores, but with my lifestyle, I just don’t have the time. I predominantly do all my shopping at one local grocery store. I spend roughly an hour each week creating my shopping list and gathering 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 in any given week – wasting way much more time.
How much did you really save with grocery coupons?
Even with this, as the spreadsheet junkie that I am, I wanted to make double sure that this was worth my time. I ran some quick numbers and 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, our annual savings reached close to $5,000 that first year! This has absolutely opened up our household to new opportunities.
Responsible Coupon Use
A word of caution – coupons are legally treated like cash and any coupon fraud is considered a very serious offence. Only use coupons from reliable sources and be cautious of the legitimacy of websites or people trying to sell coupons. Legitimate, free coupons are the smartest way to go.