I know that many of us are having a tough time making ends meet and thought that I could hopefully help others learn how to stretch their own grocery budgets through the use of coupons.
Before I get into how it all actually works, let me tell you real quick about why I had gotten into it myself. One day I had caught an episode of a show called extreme couponing. I watched in amazement as people rolled out buggies full of hundreds of dollars’ worth of nearly free stuff. They had $600-800 dollars of food and maybe paid $30 bucks for it! In some cases, they would not pay anything, and in fact the stores paid them to take the stuff. I thought that would be really cool if I could figure out how to do that.
The first thing I soon learned was that this type of thing is not quite possible, at least not in my state. That is not to say that you can’t walk out with a great deal, you absolutely can. Just don’t expect it to all be completely free. Another important thing to tell you up front, is that it takes time and work. When I was at my peak of couponing, I was clipping, ordering, and printing out coupons on nearly a daily basis. I got really into it. As silly as it sounds now, I was obsessed for a little bit and was determined to get as much as I could for as cheap as possible. I feel like I should throw in a little disclaimer here: now that I cook more from scratch I don’t buy the same types of foods that I did before. With that being said I am a realist and know that you are here because you want to know how to make this work for you, so let’s get started.
There is a lot of information you need to know before it’s time to grab your coupons and go. The first thing you need to know is your local grocery stores coupon policies. I say stores, because each one has a different policy. For instance, we have a homeland store about 15 miles away they double one like coupon only. But if I drive about 25 miles to another of these stores locations, (at last I knew) they were doubling 3 like coupons. If you’re new to this your probably wondering what this means. Let’s say I have a coupon that is .50 off of a box of cereal. The first store will let me use that coupon, but they will also double it making it a total of $1 off of that box of cereal. Now if I were to happen to have 3 of these particular coupons, I could wait and go to the second store instead and by 3 boxes of the cereal (because I have 3 of the coupons) and they will double all three of them.
If you go to a store like Walmart, they do not double coupons, but they are the only store here that gives cash back. So if you make a purchase there and your coupon is for more than the price of the product, they will give YOU money! So let’s put this into an example that makes sense to you..
Let’s pretend I have a coupon that is $4.00 of shaving razors. If I find those razors for $2.99 and give them my coupon, whatever the difference is they will give me back. So, they basically pay me .70 or whatever the amount to walk out of the store. But you always need to read the fine print on coupons, because the store does too. They hate giving cash back. If that coupon says something like limit 4, or no more than 4 like coupons, that means you must have a coupon for each item but they will only let you purchase 4 of the same items. I have made that mistake and believe me they will catch it. If the coupon doesn’t limit the number of items, then you can buy as many as you’d like. I once went the Walmart with 25 coupons for $1 off of single bar of Dove bar soap, guess what, the soap was only .97 to begin with so I only paid a portion of the tax which was about $2.00 or so. That was well over a year ago, and I still have some of that bar soap.
As I mentioned get to know your stores policies, this is the first step. This allows you to know how many of each coupon you need to acquire to use. The next step I would say that you need to do is look on sites that do coupon matchups. These sites do all the "leg work" so to speak, they have already figured out what’s on sale at the stores and have found coupons to help you save even more money. I use consumerqueen.com for this.
Once you become familiar with how the matchup works, it’s time to start gathering coupons. There are many ways to do this. You can begin by buying Sunday papers, if you plan to shop at a store that doubles more than one coupon, let’s say they double 3 like coupons like my store then I would need to buy three papers. A huge thing to remember is that if you get the Sunday paper to save coupons, save them until they expire. Your store might not have a particular item on sale this week, but next week they might.
You can also order coupons or coupon inserts from eBay or coupon service websites like thecouponclippers.com. The last method is to print them out. You can go to sites like afullcup.com and they will let you print out most coupons only once or twice from the same computer.
Stores also sometimes have store coupons that they offer. You can use their coupon and also a manufacturer’s coupon on one product, this is called stacking. Again, it is important to first read your stores coupon policy because some won’t allow printed coupons or they might limit the amount of home printed coupons that they accept.
If you’re going to coupon, definitely look for the stores that double your coupons. That way you can save the most money!
It’s also helpful to get organized. Many couponers get a binder and baseball card sleeves and make sections or print off a template that already has sections for coupon binders. This does entail a bit more work because you are clipping every single coupon and categorizing them. If you’re interested in getting a free template, I found mine at thekrazycouponlady.com. Some people may just leave all coupons together and only clip them as they need them. Find a way that works best for you.
So let me recap real quick incase I’ve overloaded you.
1. Look up and print off each store’s coupon policy.
2. Find a website that does coupon matchups in your area.
3. Begin gathering your coupons; I’d do this for a couple weeks.
4. Organize your coupons.
5. Prepare for your trip. Print out the matchup and gather the corresponding coupons.
6. It’s a good idea to take along the stores policy, just in case there is a question about something.
7. Don’t buy junk you don’t need.
8. But wait, what to do with expired coupons….?
You’ll noticed I mentioned don’t buy junk you don’t need. There are a lot of people that think they have to use every single coupon they have. If you don’t use a product, unless it’s free, don’t buy it. You’re trying to save money, not waste it. Now if the product would be free, I would get it to either pass along to someone who would use it or I would keep the item if it has a preparedness purpose such as medical supplies or dry goods.
It takes a few couponing trips to really get a handle on how the process works. I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. When you get up to the counter and you’ve gotten a few hundred dollars’ worth of stuff, if you have not properly planned the trip, you’re going to either being paying too much or be embarrassed by having to put stuff back. I’ve been in both of those situations, and it’s not a fun position to be in.
I know this all may sound like a lot of work, and honestly it is …at first. Once you get the hang of it, it does get easier. Just remember to pay attention to sizes and quantities and that they match the coupon.
Also don’t throw those expired coupons away, donate them. Many people might not realize that coupons can be used on military bases for up to 6 months after they’ve expired. So donate them to military families to help pass along the savings. You can go to supportourtroops.org to get information about their "Troopon Program" or you can also adopt a specific military family to send them too each month. Just look online for couponstotroops.com they can help you find a family to help out, simply by sending them your expired coupons.
You might be wondering how much you can realistically save from couponing. I would save anywhere between 60-85% of your grocery bill. That is extra money in your pocket that you can put towards whatever else you need too.
If you’d like to see one of my big hauls (as their called), I got $264.10 in groceries for only $78.01, which saved me about 70% which was $186.09. Here’s the link: Sharon’s Haul.
I hope this article helps but if you find yourself now utterly confused, Leave me a comment and I will help you out!