Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Coupon Cutting Tips

It seems that saving money struck a chord within several of you guys, so I thought that I would continue from my post the other day about how I’m saving money each month and offer up some more tips/advice/things that I’ve learned over the last few months. Some of this is common sense stuff, but if you’re like me, sometimes you have to spell it all out to really “get it.”

In regards to coupons, be careful about coupons where you have to buy multiple items to get larger savings. Like buy three of this item to save $1. If it’s a perishable good, you might not be able to use all three items in time, and you spent more money than you might have to begin with. Remember that the #1 rule is to not spend money that you wouldn’t normally spend. For example, when I had a coupon for $1 off Pop Tarts, but I had to buy three boxes, that was an ok coupon for me since I eat Pop Tarts at work…and they won’t go bad over the course of time. But when I had a coupon for $2 off a frozen breakfast entrĂ©e that I thought we would like to try, I didn’t end up using it since I would have had to buy 2 of them and I didn’t know that we’d like it. I’ll wait for them to go on a normal mark-down sale and try one box…then look for the coupon again if we like them and they’ll keep.

Also, be sure to read the fine print. A lot of times, companies will put a picture of the most expensive item in their line, but the coupon is actually good for ANY item in their line. You don’t always have to buy what’s in the picture…but sometimes the coupon is ONLY good for the item shown in the picture. You have to read it to know for sure.

Try to stack your coupons. If your coupon is a manufacturer’s coupon (what comes from Red Plum, SmartSource, P&G or typically are manufacturer’s coupons) and your local grocery store is running a sale on the item, you can usually score double! You would get the store discount AND the manufacturer’s discount. For example, that same coupon mentioned earlier for the Pop Tarts? It just happened that Wal-Mart had all Pop Tarts marked down the week that I bought them as just a regular Wal-Mart roll back…so I not only saved the $1 from the manufacturer, but I also saved an additional $.50 per box from Wal-Mart. I basically got one box free, if you think about it. Just be careful that the discount the store is offering isn’t the manufacturer’s discount…some drug stores offer the manufacturer’s discounts but cleverly disguise it as their own coupon. If that happens, your coupon won’t work because you can only use a discount/coupon code once unless otherwise stated.

Start out knowing what you pay for items. This is just good shopping sense overall, and something that my Mom taught me at an early age. I noticed that my boyfriend’s Mom would go to Sam’s Club and buy all of their groceries there, whereas my Mom would just buy certain things from Sam’s Club. When I asked her why she did that, she explained about cost/item or cost/pound (ounce) and that just because it’s sold in bulk doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. You have to know what the price of detergent is normally to know if a store is running a good sale on the item. This is also true on coupons. I had a coupon for Lysol disinfecting wipes, when we would normally buy the Clorox brand. When I got the store, I had my coupon out and ready to use when I looked/compared the two brands on the shelf before I added anything to my cart. Yes, I had a coupon for the Lysol brand, but the Clorox price (not on sale) was still cheaper to buy even without a coupon. So, I threw that coupon away and didn’t use it. You have to be a smart shopper! (Thanks MOM!)

When I know that I’m going to the grocery store for a few items, I will typically take a minute and glance through my coupons before going inside just to see if there’s something else that I might want to go ahead and pick up. You know, something that we NEED. You don’t want to drive all over town and spend the money that you’ve saved using coupons on extra gas money! Make your shopping trips count.

"Friend" your favorite stores.  These days, most stores offer an email list that you can get signed up on for extra/additional savings that in most cases are just offered to their "fans."  My favorites?  JoAnn's, Kohl's, Carter's/Osh Kosh, JC Penney (they offer GREAT incentives to their email listing!) and Babies R Us.  I also like BRU and their Rewards club...I've gotten several $5 off coupons through their points program - they add up faster that you will expect.  I have also joined a mailing list (email or snail mail) if I think that it's a store that I'll start shopping at if they have good coupons/discounts offered, and then later go back and cancel if I find that I don't like the store as much as I thought that I would...that's okay to do too!  You can usually get anywhere from $5 off your next purchase on up to 10-20% off of everything in the store...great deals!  I clip these down or fold them to also fit into my accordian coupon file so that I always have them with me when I'm out and about.

Keep up with what you’re saving. Although none of this takes that long to do, and most of it can be done while watching TV, sometimes it seems tedious and time consuming. (I do mine in small steps, because life with an infant in the house is unpredictable at best, and I’ve found that doing things in stages that can be put down and picked back up to finish later works best for me.) But when I go to the store, use 10 coupons and then look at my receipt and realize that I only saved $3.89 it can be discouraging. That’s why it’s important to keep up a tally of your total savings…not just trip to trip. In the spirit of things, I think that I’ll put up a counter on my blog so that I can share what I’ve saved for the year so far…updating the total each week. I think that would be interesting to watch it grow and help keep me motivated!

As always, the things that I'm sharing here with you are what works for ME. It might not be the best way, it's definitely not the only way, and there might be a better way out there to do it...but this is MY way.  There are some others who would argue directly against some of the tips that I think help my way work better...and that's ok.  That doesn't mean that their way is wrong, or that my way is wrong for that matter.  It just means that there are several options and methodsto achieve the same goal.  You have to find the plan that works best for YOU.  My way might not be it...I just wanted to share with you in case it was something that might work for you. 

If you clip coupons, do have some other tips to share with me? Like maybe someone could explain to me how CVS membership works…it seems SO confusing to me that I haven’t even attempted to tackle THAT one! I’d love to hear about your tips and tricks…


B @ Our Journey said...

The Grocery Game is a site that does a weekly publication of the lowest-priced products at grocery and drugstores near you. It automatically matches the manufactures coupons with any specials that store is having that week. Unfortunately there is a fee to use the service but I believe they have a free trial you can sign up for. She also list each stores coupon policy (Walmart, CVS, etc).

Tomica Bonner said...

Check out Lisa @ She has amazing coupon skills. She gets $400 in groceries for under $100 I believe. I really need to get it together and learn how to save more.