I have gotten a lot of comments, questions and requests when it regards my new adventure- couponing. Since you ladies (and some gents) have been asking about my new craft, I will reveal to you my secrets, tips and strategy. Hopefully, it helps you out and if you have any more tips, feel free to share on this page as a comment!
Background: my mom was in charge of the household my entire childhood, from what I can recollect. As stereotypical as it sounds, she was very into saving money and trying to make cash where it couldn’t be found. Approximately over 6 years ago, while I was in high school, she found her own craft in extreme couponing. At this time, the Extreme Couponer show was premiering, and Mom was hooked. I remember having to run to stores for her, just to complete her shopping lists. I did this probably over 100 times. I was fascinated, but really didn’t care, because I was still under her roof and could consume/use these products.
Well, after moving to Louisville, going to college, getting married and being on my own for almost a year, I really now care. LOL.
The lesson here is simple: once it affects you, you truly care.
Some fast facts for y’all who are wanting to attempt this method:
- It will take you awhile to craft this skill. I’m not trying to discourage you, but until you make your own stockpiles, you will have to be spending money. At first, your savings will be minimal. However, every discount counts and it all adds up in the end. Think of it this way: even if you only save 5%, 5% of that money you didn’t spend could go somewhere else needed.
- To truly coupon, you have to search search search. You HAVE to invest time into couponing. For example, I probably spend on average 3 hours a day, looking for coupons. It sounds nuts, especially for parents and workers, but it is manageable. I worked and went to college since I began, so I understand the struggle. However, if you can at least attempt to look daily or every other day, it will work in your favor.
- Make sure when you decide to pick out a place for your shopping, you know their policies. Each place you go into will be different. For example, Kroger does not double coupon. What this entails is not being able to use the same coupon twice on one product. However, if you go to Wal-Mart, they will price match with the competitor’s prices. This comes in handy when you have coupons and know of a sale.
- PLEASE make sure you budget and have a food category. We are military, so his paychecks come the same time, consistently with duration and amount. I used to work restaurant, which is weekly, and retail, which is bi-weekly. Depending on your hours, your paychecks can range vastly. However your paycheck comes, allot for it accordingly. For example, if you notice that your paycheck next week is more than this week’s, I recommend shopping with the more expensive/bigger lists the following paycheck. To me, it is common sense, but it is mainly because you have the room to save your ass if needed. You always need cushion room, just in case your bill runs up higher than you imagined. Budgets not only keep you in check, but help you set goals. When you have goals, you will want to achieve them, which will motivate you to succeed.
Okay, now are we ready?
I am going to use my last shopping trip as the experience for this post, and the how-to guide.
For anyone who likes numbers and visuals, here are the numbers:
Budgeted money for food category: $50 (this is the smaller list)
Actual amount we paid: $43
Amount we should have paid: $98
Percentage of savings: 45%
Amount we saved: $35 (93% Kroger sales + coupons, 7% manufacturer coupons)
This has been my third shopping trip with coupons. My last saved me 33%, or 1/3 of my bill, which was I believe $85. The reasons I personally think I caught on so fast was mainly two: I have been exposed to this method for years and I am a huge math nerd. If you like math, I think you will get couponing faster, because it is a numbers game ultimately. If not, I think you will catch on as long as you care and keep track. The next tip I will give, before my actual outline, is be organized. I will be the first to admit that I absolutely suck at being clean and organized, but I have developed a pattern and structure. I think as long as you do this, you will be fine and catch on.
So, now to the good part: here are my actual tips with couponing J
Sales, sales, sales. Whatever you do, look for sales. Not just sales you want to get because you want it, but actually need it or could see needing it. People get too greedy and this is why people are in debt. The majority of Americans owe at least five figures. Don’t become this statistic over your food choices. Bre, my best friend and sister, actually went shopping with us the second time around. She was great at grabbing stuff that was on sale. This might sound psycho, but I highly recommend not buying items you can’t get an “already there” discount.
The reason for this? If you willingly buy one thing in this category, it is so much easier to be swept away and collect more. The goal is to save, not spend. Yes, you have to spend the cash, but you need to save as well.
Coupons, and sites, and manufacturers, OH MY. I absolutely LOVE coupons. Even better, I love it when I can find not only coupons on a site that are in store, but ALSO manufacturer coupons.
- Let’s separate these two.
- Site coupons: This is the type that you can actually find on the site of the store you want to buy from. For example, I personally have a Kroger card with Kroger. Grocery stores like Kroger typically have a website you can register with and obtain some type of rewards program. If you find another type of place for your purchases and discover a rewards program, you betcha I will stalk you if you don’t sign up. This is the company’s way of saying, “here’s your cookie for caring.” Now, with my experience, Kroger will have little notices saying, “(insert price) of item WHEN you use your card.” Because you signed up with the rewards program, you will receive this amount, as long as you punch in your number or show your card. On top of this, many websites for the companies have their own deals and coupons. If you can go online and find them, load them onto your card, or print out these deals. This way, when you go into the store and shop, you either have the coupons in person or on card.
- Manufacturer coupons– Now, this type of coupon requires more patience and time to acquire. While it might take you an hour at the most with on-site coupons, manufacturer coupons are much more challenging than a simple egg hunt. I’d call this the corn maze at night type. To find these, you have to find search engines that are coupon friendly. Probably the best tip I have for this is find a blog that happens to shop where you also do. The runners will typically discuss the current deals, giving you a heads up about not only your sales, but these coupons. Many times, they will post the link to the actual manufacturer coupons, which you can click on, and print out twice (I will explain this in a second.) If you can’t find a corresponding blog, I would use a search engine and look for the items according to the categories and your needs.
- You are probably now going, “I thought you said these coupons can’t be doubled?”
- Answer: it actually isn’t doubling. They are different. On site coupons are delivered from the actual produce/grocery, whereas manufacturer coupons are the companies’ own coupons for their products. What this essentially does is give you two different coupons for the same product, doubling the savings, but not actually doubling the coupons. To sweeten this deal, you need to look for manufacturer coupons in advance. Many times, you can find these out a lot longer and sooner. On site coupons correspond with the weekly deals, which you have to keep an eye out.
Unfortunately, this is where the organization process starts. Because of the long time planning out for manufacturer coupons and weekly changes in deals, you need to make sure to not confuse the two. I have done this, and it ruins your list. If you have already dug up your manufacturer coupons, it is much easier to task the onsite ones.
Combine, combine, COMBINE: Any time that you see a sale, find a coupon. Any time you see a coupon, find a sale. Any time you don’t see a sale, find two types of coupons. This sounds nuts, but honestly, I won’t buy anything unless it hits two categories. It makes me feel better when I do this, because if I can combine it, I know the prices are much cheaper at this point, and we’re saving. Plus, you don’t want to neglect on the double dipping, especially when it is not affecting your pocket. Look at it this way- coupons and sales are free money. The company and stores are paying you to buy their product, and your money isn’t put into the equation until it covers what you weren’t able to save. In this respect, wouldn’t you want to gather as much free money as possible? I know I would.
This last trip, Kroger had a buy 5, save $5. When you mixed and matched particular products, you had $5 knocked off the same products. Now, I got extremely lucky- the Butterball Turkey Sausage was on sale for $1.49. Not only did I buy 2 of these, but I also combined two $0.79 coupons with it, making it essentially $0.79 per sausage. Another example: Simply Lemonade was on sale for 2 for $4. I had two $0.75 coupons for the beverage, making it $2.50 for 2.
Now, I completely understand if you want a product and only have a coupon or sale deduction. When it comes to most fruits, vegetables and deli products (the meats), you will rarely have a coupon out for them. Typically, places will have them on sale. At that, watch the amount you buy. I limit us typically to 2-3 pounds per fruit/veggie, and it has never made our bill rise. Especially for parents, buy whatever you need for your children, regardless. However, if it is on sale AND/OR discount, you get it. I see a lot of kids products on sale, but I’m unsure of the frequencies when you can double dip. My recommendation is buying AS MUCH as you can with double dipping, and then purchase in smaller increments the items you want that are only on sale or have a coupon.
My last major tip: make sure you plan for success and the fail. Any time you enter the store, make sure you always have your list, coupons and backups. A lot of times, stores will be limited on products, and you might have to quickly change gears. I know I had to this last time: Frosted Flakes were a part of the 5/5, and they were sold out. To keep the deal, we had to find another type of cereal for my husband, and luckily, we found some. If you can’t, my recommendation is weighing the pros and cons.
Now, before I log off, here are some sites for y’all J If you know of any more, please comment!
Coupons.com, redplum.com, krogerkrazy.com, Ibotta (an app)