I had a coworker come up to me a few days ago and tell me that she heard I was an extreme couponer. I am not sure that extreme is the word I would use to describe myself. As I mentioned before, I don’t believe in buying things that my family won’t eat or use. I also don’t clear shelves. I usually only have from 6 to 10 of any given coupon, so I don’t have extreme amounts of anything in my house. I think the term “Happy Couponer” would be more fitting. I do get a thrill out of seeing my total go down on the register with each item scanned, although I don’t see it drop down to zero. I don’t know that I even aspire to be one of those folks who can get thousands of dollars worth of food for just pennies on the dollar. That takes a lot of time and strategy. While I do have the patience for the strategizing part, I just don’t have the time. I am a wife and a mother of four who also happens to work full time. When I get home from work, there are kids to bathe, dinner to cook, and homework to check. Not to mention laundry, which must be done every day if I hope to avoid washing 12 loads over the weekend. I just don’t have 40 extra hours a week to dedicate to clipping coupons and trying to get the best deal. I do have a few tips to share though, that will hopefully be helpful to moms in similar situations.
1. Do not buy what you won’t use or eat. I cannot stress that enough. Unless you come across offers that would be free after coupon and can be donated to some worthy cause, like a food bank, military care packages, or homeless shelters, it is pointless to clip coupons for things that you won’t use. If you don’t own a dog, sucking up precious space in your storage area with 50 cans of dog food is obsessive.
2. It isn’t a deal if you can’t afford it. Don’t go without the basic necessities in order to buy 30 bottles of body wash at $1 a bottle. That dollar adds up and it just makes more sense to spend $30 at the Farmer’s Market than go out of your way for a deal.
3. You don’t have to use every single coupon in your inventory. Coupons will expire on you, and it isn’t the end of the world. Set those expired coupons aside in an envelope. Military families overseas can use them for up to six months past the expiration date. Many deals are cyclical, as are coupons. If you miss out this time around, chances are that you will have a chance to stock up next time.
4. Get organized. Taking your coupons to the store in a large manila envelope and hoping for the best will hamper your ability to take advantage of some good deals. The same filing system will not work for everyone, but you must have SOME sort of system. Figure out what works for you. I prefer the binder method, which has its pros and cons just like any other method. Being able to bring all my coupons to the store with me is helpful in the event that I come across an unadvertised special in the store.
5. Buy more than one newspaper. You can save some money with one set of inserts, but when you are able to use two in a Buy One, Get One Free scenario, it really makes a difference. If you are just starting out, there is no need to grab ten papers at once. Start off with two and then as time goes on, you will figure out how many you need based on what your family uses. Which leads me to the next item:
6. Sign up for coupon previews. Knowing what will be in the paper ahead of time helps me determine how many newspapers I should buy.
7. You may find something else that works for you, but I have a spreadsheet set up with tabs for each store. Each spreadsheet contains a listing for an item, the original price, the sale price, the amount I have for that item in coupons, any register rewards or Extra Care Bucks that can be applied, and what my final price will be for that item. His helps me get a figure in mind of what I will pay for an item and whether or not the savings are enough to justify the effort.
8. Don’t assume that Walmart will always be the best place to use your coupons. . I recently had a coupon for Ritz Mutligrain cracker-fulls for $1.50 off. Now that is a pretty high value coupon. Walmart had them cheapest at $2.67. Had I bought them there, I would have paid $1.17 for each box. Publix ended up putting them on sale, though. Normally $3.39 a box, they were BOGO that week. Using one coupon for each box in addition to the BOGO sale meant that I paid less than 20 cents a box.
I have met people who got discouraged because they were not able to get things for free (or dirt cheap) in the beginning. Have patience. It takes time to build up a coupon stash that will help you take advantage of stuff that is on sale. Before you know it, you will have the hang of combining sales with coupons, as well as stacking coupons (combining a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon) to get the best deal.