Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Simple Tips for Newbies to Couponing

I wanted to share briefly some tips about couponing that all newbies need to know. These are things that I have been learning over time that have helped me save a lot of money on everyday grocery and home items. I'll start these tips tonight and add on to them over the next few days.

1. Coupons work best when combined with a sale. Don't waste your coupons too soon. Watch for sales and find deals that give you the most savings on an item. This is a very important point to remember. You will save tons more money if you are patient.

2. Sunday insert coupons almost never correspond with sales that weekend at the grocery store. Grocery stores know what coupons are in the Sunday paper. Hold on to those coupons. See point #1. There are typically two main forms of inserts: Red Plum and Smarts Source. You'll need to start collecting these, along with any of the other inserts that are occasionally added (Unilever, Proctor and Gamble inserts, for example).

3. A buy one, get one free item means you are buying two items and you can use TWO coupons. This is not known by most newbies. A BOGO deal on hot dogs, 2 for $3, is even sweeter when you combine it with two 50c off coupons. Now you're getting 2 packs for $2, a savings of $4 off the regular price.

4. There are two types of coupons: manufacturer coupons (like Skippy) and store coupons (like Target printables). You can combine TWO coupons on any item (the policy at most national retailers that have their own coupons) as long as one is a manufacturer coupon and the other is a retail coupon. Typically you find these combinations at Walgreens and Target. Both of these coupons come in the Sunday paper, and also are printable from places like coupons.com, redplum.com and afullcup.com (Target coupons).

5. Major Sunday newspapers have better coupon sections, and often better discounts, than smaller, regional papers. If you live in Chicago, you will find many more coupons in the Chicago Tribune than you will in the Daily Herald, for example. It pays to get a larger distribution paper if you can. You can often buy the Sunday paper at the Dollar Store, even on Saturday. I buy the Tribune on Saturdays for $1. I leave the paper and take the coupon inserts.

6. Stockpile savings. If you buy chicken this week for $9 on sale and next week it's $15 a box, don't you wish you could have bought more for $9? That's the idea around stockpiling. You buy as much of an item as you can to last you for a long period (about 8-12 weeks). This is because sales run on a cycle, typically 12 weeks. I bought 12 boxes of dishwashing detergent, on sale and with coupon, for $11. When I run out, instead of running to the store, I grab one from the pantry. I "shop" at home. Now, you can't go crazy with this. If your husband can't shower because it's full of the cat food you bought, then it's time to slow it down!

7. Be organized. Be prepared. You can't approach major grocery savings without some prep. You will save the most money when you know what to buy where and when. Fortunately there are literally hundreds of blogs out there created by some amazing women who have a lot of time to compile deals for almost every major national and local chain store. Try the couponmom.com for the grocery stores near you (including Target, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens). I have a list of some blogs I follow but these are only a beginning.

8. Brand loyalty can cost you money. If your husband will only use Crest, see if he will switch if you can get Colgate for free. Maybe yes maybe no. But the fact is that you will save more if you are not a slave to one brand. If Colgate is a no go, that's ok. You'll save money on other items to compensate for the difference.

9. Store brands are not always cheaper than name brands. Store brands rarely ever have coupons. Name brands do weekly. Combined with a sale I ALWAYS save money over generic items.

10. Start slowly and don't get stressed. Trying to become a Super Couponer in one weekend will be disappointing and stressful. You need to accumulate a couple of weeks of coupons in your stash, read the blogs, plan your deals. Start slowly. Follow a deal another person has done in your area. There is no rule that you yourself have to come up with the deals. For the most part, unless you live near only one store no one has ever heard of, there are likely to be a lot of people who have figured out and posted the deals for you.

11. Don't return items that you received a coupon for. Let me explain. If you got a great deal on 25 packs of diapers, and it printed a $15 off coupon good for your next purchase, don't decide to return all the diapers and keep the coupon. This is STEALING. Likewise, don't wipe out and entire shelf of diapers. If you are buying huge quantities, special order them at the service desk.

Have fun. Saving shouldn't hurt!

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