First off, I want to let you know that I'm not the world's best coupon person. Far from it, from some of the couponing stories I've heard. However, I do have some strategies that I find that work for me that may not be common knowledge so I thought it would still be worth sharing.
I don't buy the newspaper. I get my coupons mostly from my mother-in-law's papers, since she doesn't use them. Sometimes, people from church have also given me coupons or they come in the mail, but where ever they come from, I basically handle them the same:
- I don't just cut out coupons for my usual products. I clip coupons for any product that I might consider if the price was right. This greatly expands my options of saving money as long as it is done right.
- When I mark something on the grocery list as something to buy, if I know I have a coupon for that item, I paperclip it right to the list right away so I don't forget it. I also make a note next to the item on the list to make sure I realize that I need to make sure to hand that coupon to the cashier.
- Before going grocery shopping, I go through my coupons one last time to make sure I didn't miss anything or there weren't any happy surprises in there that I forgot about. Any other coupons I know I'll need get paperclipped to the shopping list at this point.
- Take all remaining coupons to the store just in case there is a really, really good sale that wasn't advertised or some other situation where I might need the coupon. Really, if you are in the habit of swinging by the store at unexpected times, it is a good idea to keep your coupons with you at all times so you aren't left unprepared!
- I don't buy something just because I have a coupon for it. At the very minimum, it has to be a savings over what I would usually get. If I can get the product in question cheaper by buying it in bulk or an off brand or even a different brand that has a better sale, I will. When comparing coupon savings and sale savings, it is important to keep in mind whether the coupon would be doubled or tripled, since that will make a difference in which has a better price. There is nothing wrong with letting a coupon expire without using it if it wouldn't save you money to use it.
- Ideally, use coupons for products you don't buy on a regular basis when the product is also on sale. An example of this: Last week, Pizza Rolls were on sale for $1 a box at the local store (regular price was $1.25, I think). This isn't something I usually buy, since I have higher quality food standards for my family, but my husband likes them for a meal after he gets home from work in the middle of the night. I had a coupon for $0.40 off two boxes and the store doubles coupons. I had two of these coupons, so I was able to get 2 boxes of these for $0.60 each, more than half off!
- Not only can you "stack" coupons with a sale, but you can also can use store coupons at the same time as manufactured coupons for more savings. I don't know that I've ever had this experience with specific product coupons, but I have gotten a few items almost for free by combining manufacturer coupons, sales, and "x off your entire order" kind of coupons before.
- Routinely go through the coupons to check for expired coupons. It doesn't do any good to pick up an item thinking you're going to save money on it then finding out you have to pay full price at the checkout because your coupon is no good!
Like I said, I'm not an expert when it comes to coupons. Most of my money saving strategies stem more from not buying rather than buying well. I'd love to hear some of your tips and suggestions on how to make using coupons more effective. Please share your comments!