Today’s guest post is written by Katie. Read more about her at the end of this post.
I am by no means an expert on couponing, at least not to the level of the women on TV. I am just a cheap person who hates paying full price for anything. I credit that to my Grandma, who would haggle at a Wal-Mart. These days saving money isn’t just a bonus, it’s a necessity. No matter how much the savings, it is worth it. I’ve argued about the $.05 credit for bringing my own bags to the grocery store. When I’ve asked women why they don’t use coupons, it is usually the same few responses. “I don’t have time to worry about it.” and “I have no idea what to do.” Hopefully, these few tips can make the process a little easier, and maybe even a little fun.
First, make couponing part of your weekly routine. Every Sunday, I sit down with my newspaper and a cup of coffee. I actually find it kind of relaxing at this point. I clip all of the coupons that I could possibly use. The crazy ladies on TV seem to clip (and use) any coupon that they find. It isn’t saving you money if the items sit in your basement and go to waste. Only clip what you’ll actually use. If you don’t have a cat, don’t clip a Fancy Feast coupon! Unless you are feeding an army, don’t buy 47 bottles of mustard! Even if you don’t get the Sunday paper, there are tons of websites that allow you to download and print coupons. I googled “printable grocery coupons” and got 800,000 hits.
Step two, get organized! I bought a coupon organizer from the dollar store (incredible investment). I labeled each section, and now it’s easy to find all of my coupons. Set them up in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t feel like thinking about it, you can steal my sections (Dog, Breakfast, Drinks, Sides/Snacks, Dairy, Canned, Meat, Entrees, Desserts, Paper/Plastic, Cleaning, and Toiletries). I even go a step further and organize the coupons in each section by date. That way I don’t keep coupons beyond their expiration date, and I know when a good coupon is about to expire. I’ve also seen women use binders to organize coupons. It really doesn’t matter how you do it, just as long as you know what you’ve got.
Third, take advantage of e-coupons. These are coupons that are loaded directly onto your shopper’s card. Not all stores have this program, but it is worth checking out. A few websites that I visit religiously are: www.shortcuts.com, www.cellfire.com, www.pgesaver.com and www.frysfood.com. There may be more, but these are my standard sites. Again, I only select the items that I’ll use. One problem I had early on was forgetting what coupons I had downloaded. An easy fix – print out a list of your e-coupons and take it with you. Keep in mind that these do have expiration dates too.
The key to a really successful shopping trip is using all methods of savings at the same time. I check out the weekly circulars to see what items are on sale. Ideally, I can match up paper and e-coupons with the sale items. You do need to get familiar with the standard prices and sales. After awhile, most people know when something is a good price. This also helps you to catch if the store rings something up incorrectly. Most stores will give you the item for free if it is wrong, so it literally pays to pay attention. You also want to know what promotions your grocery store is running. I shop at Fry’s Food. Right now, all coupons are worth $1 and they’ll accept competitor’s coupons. Fresh & Easy always has coupons for $3 off $30 (or something like that). Since my grocery bill is almost always over $30, I can always use them. All of these combined makes for a lot of savings! Just be sure you know when these promotions end, or you’ll have a really frustrating experience in the checkout line.
Finally, be flexible when you go shopping. While making a list should save you some money, you should also be open to modifying that list if something else is on sale. Watch for items that have a long shelf life, or that you use a lot. Stock up when appropriate, but only if you have the space. If you’re storing cans of soup in your bathroom, you have a problem. Sometimes my grocery trips yield a strange variety of items, but it is always stuff that I can use. Actually, I’ve created some pretty fun meals with the random food that I bring home. You never know, you may just find your next favorite meal this way!
Couponing is all about patience and organization. The best way to enjoy the process is to make it a contest. Each week, I compete against myself to see how much I can save. If you have a friend to compete against, it can be even more fun. One of my friends will text me to let me know her savings, and I’ll do the same. While we aren’t super competitive with each other, it’s an added incentive to have bigger savings. My best shopping trip was a 75% savings, and my average is about 65%. It’s not much compared to the women on the TV show, but it’s still saving me a lot of money.
Give it try… and don’t give up after two weeks. Once you get in the habit of couponing, you’ll never be able to stop.
Katie lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and son, who joined the family via adoption in January. Since starting the adoption process, she had created a blog to share her experiences.
She works full-time at Arizona State University, but her greatest job is being a mom. She enjoys going to baseball games, reading and anything outdoors (although that isn’t always possible in Phoenix). And, She’s our editor Emily’s older sister :)
Do you coupon? What sites do you use? Whats your “best trip”?