Not So Extreme Couponing

Posted on January 11, 2013. Filed under: Family, Finances |

Picture Source: blog.couponsherpa.com

Picture Source: blog.couponsherpa.com

Not too long ago, I was talking to my 14-year old daughter about wanting to save more money. As an avid watcher of many of the – what I like to call – less risqué reality TV shows, she seriously asked me, “What about extreme couponing?” I laughed thinking there’s no way I could be an “Extreme Couponer.” I mean, really, who has time for that? But then the gears started turning in my head… That doesn’t mean I couldn’t coupon, right? After all, anything I save would be extra money in the bank. Cha Ching!

 I was no stranger to coupons. I witnessed my mom do it for years and as a very analytical number cruncher, I knew I could excel at this.

 But where to begin?

 I remembered my mom always had a neat filing system for all her coupons. So first thing first, I made a quick trip to the dollar store to get supplies – and can you believe they actually sell coupon books there with preset categories? I also grabbed an expandable accordion file folder so I could customize my extra categories. My customized labels included a section for “Coupons to Redeem” and “Expiring Coupons.” (You’ll see why a little later).

 Now for my collection…Back in the day your only option for coupons was the Sunday Newspaper; but now there are so many more to choose from. But why choose? You would be doing yourself a great disservice not to take advantage of them all!

  • Online – Sites like coupons.com and redplum.com have many of the coupons you can find in the newspaper conveniently online. Just clip and print. Note: You will need to download software in order to print these coupons off.
  • Electronically – Yes you can save money without having to carry around dozens of coupons. Certain grocers allow you to clip digital coupons that you can redeem in-store. My favs are Meijers mPerks and the Kroger Plus Card.
  • Mail or E-mail – Signing up for your favorite product or store mailing lists can result in extra savings in your mail or inbox. For products that you use frequently, you may find this worth the sharing of your personal info.
  • Newspaper – Of course, you can always pick up your Sunday paper at a convenient location or opt for a subscription and have it mailed directly to you. There is value in the paper because many times you do find exclusive coupons in them. Even if you can access the coupons online, utilizing both options will give you access to duplicate coupons.

 Now that you have your coupons, here’s how to make sure your maximizing them:

  • Double for your trouble – There are several stores that double coupons, usually up to 50 cents. Find out what stores, such as Meijer and Kroger, and take advantage of the double savings. Note: Coupons that are printed offline can be doubled as well.
  • Shop the Sales – Use coupons in conjunction with sales to get your items at an even further discount. Most stores make this easy as many when note on their sales flyers if a coupon just came out for an item that is on sale that week.
  • Know where to go – In addition to major grocers, there are several other stores that take coupons. Most local grocers, all national pharmacy retail chains such as Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens, and even some discount stores such as Family Dollar, Big Lots and Dollar Tree accept manufacturer coupons.
  • Pay attention to detail – Make sure you know exactly what the coupon is for and that you pick the right item(s) to redeem your savings. Many coupons are size and quantity specific. Some are even specific to certain stores so make sure you pay attention.
  • Coordinate with care – If you use both electronic print coupons, you are only allowed to redeem one per item and from my experience the digital trumps all. If you have print coupons that produce greater savings, you can always un-clip your digital one and redeem the print coupon or re-clip later.
  • Plan ahead – When making your grocery list, take out the applicable coupons for the items on your list and put them in an envelope or a separate tab in your coupon organizer for easy access.
  • Don’t leave home without them – Keep your coupon folder in your car. This way you never leave home without them and can take advantage of them even when making unplanned purchases – such as cold medicine when someone in the house gets sick.
  • Purge frequently – Keep your coupon organizer up-to-date. Make sure you periodically go in and purge all those coupons that have expired. At this time you can even pull out those coupons that will be expiring soon. Put them in the appropriate slot in your organizer.
  • Double check – Pay attention as coupons are being redeemed, sometimes cashiers accidentally miss one. Even in self-check, you should make sure everything scans correctly.

So now I’m sure you’re wondering, how long does it take to do all of this and is it really worth it?

How much time do I have to invest?

Since I am several months into this, I can clip coupons – online, electronically, and in the paper – and make my grocery list with pairing coupons in roughly an hour each week. I have found creative, convenient ways to incorporate this in my already busy schedule.

  • Clip during your favorite TV show – I used to clip my coupons and make my grocery list while watching Walking Dead on Sunday nights.
  • Take advantage of downtime – Since I can access my electronic coupons from my smart phone, I will clip while riding shotgun in the car, during my breaks at work, or even while waiting at appointments. Just make sure you’re completed by the time you make your grocery list.

What will I save?

As far as savings go, I save about $50 a month on my grocery bill as a result of coupon redemption. This doesn’t include the savings I get from shopping the sales and going to multiple stores to get the best deals. Overall, I have been able to cut my grocery budget by 25%. While I won’t be getting any calls from TLC to make a guest TV appearance “Extreme Couponing,” I would still like to think that my efforts have greatly helped my family in our quest to be debt-free and maximize our savings. I would love to hear

I hope that you have learned a little something from this post – even if it’s just that you don’t have to be an obsessive, compulsive person to coupon. But most importantly, I would love to learn from you! Please feel free to share your couponing tips and other savings techniques. Let’s empower one another!

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