We’ve all seen the shows: people saving 90% or more on humongous grocery bills using nothing but coupons, hauling mountains of groceries out to their cars and replenishing massive stockpiles for only a fraction of the amount on their thousand dollar or more bills before coupons are applied.
It’s hard to not be a little bit awed by these incredible shopping triumphs. It’s enough to make you want to try it out yourself, right? But these people have been doing it for years! If you’re a total coupon novice, you need a place to start, which is why we compiled this list of couponing tips for you; to help you slash your grocery bill with a little couponing and budgeting prowess!
Know Where To Get Coupons
Obviously, before you can even start couponing, you need to know where to get your coupons from. A great place to start is the Sunday paper, and subscribing to multiple papers will help you get even more. In addition, there are multiple online resources available to you as a novice couponer, including coupon sites and clippers, as well as circulars that are downloadable as a PDF.
One thing you’re definitely going to need as you start your couponing journey is a whole new outlook on organization. Ever wonder how those people on T.V. get such big hauls? You’ll notice that they are using tons of coupons! Keeping track of all of those deals is no joke-you need to be prepared with some essential organizations skills and techniques. It helps to have file folders and coupon organizers, as well as ledgers and browser bookmarks to keep track of what you want to use.
Make Some Time
One of the most valuable couponing tips we can give you is this: couponing takes a lot of time, so be ready to carve an hour or two out of your day to get the job done! It’s certainly advisable to hone your time management strategies, and to ease into the world of couponing. It’s easy to get carried away, but don’t feel like you have to take on too much too soon.
Call Stores Beforehand
One sure way to make sure that you will get the best deals is to know everything there is to know about the stores you plan on frequenting. It makes sense to call the stores beforehand. Become friendly with the manager, and make sure that you have a very firm grasp on what the store’s couponing policies are–some are much more stringent than others! This will help avoid the very frustrating possibility of making an entire shopping trip, only to be foiled at checkout!
Pay Attention to Store Circulars
You want to shop where the sales are, after all. Studying store circulars will allow you to match specials and sale prices to coupon deals, ultimately allowing you to further reduce your overall grocery bill. Make sure that you have the weekly circulars for all of the stores you plan on shopping, and do a little math before hand to insure that you’ll be getting the best deal. Usually these circulars available in the paper or in the store, but if you aren’t able to find them there, check online! Many stores have them in printable form on their websites.
Brush Up On Couponing Lingo
Couponers have their own special language, so one couponing tip you want to heed is to pay special attention to the lexicon, and become familiar using it. You’ll often encounter acronyms like BOGO (buy one get one free), OYNO (on your next order), OOP (out of pocket), PSA (prices starting at), and a whole lot more. Knowing the basics of the couponer’s vocabulary and learning some basic couponing strategies will help you become more and more comfortable with the process.
Get The Loyalty Cards
Loyalty cards get a bad rap-they’re the cards you can sign up for at each store that allow you to amass points, rewards, and special discounts by swiping or scanning them at the register. To the average shopper, these little perks might not add up to much, but if you’re considering doing something a little more extreme, than these perks and rewards can really add up. Find out what each card gets you; sometimes they shave a little extra off of a regular or store price item, and sometimes they provide you with points that can be transferred to savings at a certain point (i.e., the end of the month)
Plan Your Grocery Shopping Trip
Of all the couponing tips, this may just be the most important, and one that you have to keep at the forefront of your mind. To make the most of your shopping trip, it’s important to have a game plan. How many transactions will you make? What stores will you visit, and in what order? Do you have a list of the items you need and the items you have coupons for? It helps to get to the store early before low-priced items can be snatched up. Having a plan is absolutely vital, so make sure you do your prep work.
Vary Your Shopping Routine
A lot of us are used to just going to one grocery store; since so many stores have a combinations of items-food, household items, even gardening equipment and automotive supplies-that a lot of times it is just more convenient to make one shopping trip at one store. But for the couponer, it can be necessary to go to a bunch of different stores. After all, you have to go where the deals are! If you’ve been paying close attention to your circulars, you know that while apples and milk might be more affordable at one store, the toilet paper and toothpaste that you need might be better priced at another.
Cheat On Your Brands
A lot of us have brand loyalty-we like our special mayonnaise or have our favorite deodorant. It’s time to let that go. Sometimes, a competitor will offer a better price or coupon opportunity, and you should go where the deals are. Who knows? once you try a new brand, you might find that you have a new favorite!
Check Your Dates
It’s easy to lose track of expiration dates when you’re juggling so many coupons, but one of the couponing tips you must never forget is to keep close track of all of the expiration dates. Sometimes it is helpful to have separate coupon organizers-one for all of your coupons divided by date, and one for the coupons that will expire first.
Only Buy What You’ll Use
A lot of novice couponers are so excited to find a deal, that they’ll end up buying items that they don’t need. We know you’re much more savvy than that! You should only buy what you know you’ll end up using. It might be thrilling to get 10 cans of sardines for 90% off, but if you don’t like sardines, than you’ll end up spending more than you normally would have anyway.
Get A Rain Check
If an item is sold out, don’t despair! A lot of stores have a rain check policy, which means that you can come back for the item at the sale or coupon price, even after the sale has ended. This is why “Call Stores Beforehand” was one of the very first couponing tips we gave you. By knowing the store’s rain check policy, you don’t have to miss out on a great deal just because other shoppers snatched up all of the goods.
A lot of great deals can be found online, and more and more people are shopping on sites that sell everything from garden hoses to groceries. A lot of these stores offer coupon codes, too, so you can take your couponing savvy to the internet. There are also lots of options for site-to-store, meaning that you can buy an item online for a cheaper price than in-store and then get the item delivered to the store where you can use another coupon.
Get Social With Your Couponing
“Liking” or “following” your favorite brands and stores online can also give you access to printable online coupons that you might not otherwise find in your weekly paper or circular. If you sign up for emails, you’ll also be the first to know about certain sales, which you can take into consideration when you plan your shopping trip.
Make Separate Transactions If You Need To
In some stores, there is a limit to the number of items you can purchase with one transaction, or the number of coupons that can be doubled or tripled. For this reason, it’s important to know the store’s coupon policy, and make the necessary amount of separate transactions when you need to! This is another great reason why one of our earlier couponing tips-“Get Organized” is such an important one. It’s definitely a great idea to be prepared before you even hit the aisles.
Pay Close Attention When You Check Out
We saved one of the most valuable couponing tips for last: it’s important to pay very close attention to your check out total as you move through the cashier’s line. Doing all of your math beforehand and checking out with like items grouped together can reduce the chance of an oversight or mistake, but they can still happen. If you catch a mistake, don’t be afraid to pipe up and let the cashier know. Even after you’ve checked out, make sure that you cross reference your receipt with your shopping plan. Even if something did manage to get overlooked, you can always go back and speak to Customer Service to get the money refunded or have the coupon applied retroactively.
Now that you have a valuable list of couponing tips, you are all ready to get clipping, snipping and saving. Of course, it’s not enough to just buy food, you have to know what to do with it, too, right? Well, it’s always helpful to learn a few delicious recipes that you can keep on standby for when it’s time to feed your family or entertain guests. Or perhaps you have a business of your own and you’re interested in learning how to entice potential customers with mobile coupons. Whatever you do, one thing is for sure: you can bet that you’ll be saving a lot more money with your new couponing tips and clipping savvy!