Couponing Basics

Extreme couponing has become a popular alternative to paying retail prices, and helps families save money in a turbulent economy. As featured in the reality show on TLC, it is possible to cart away groceries worth $500 or more for sometimes as little as $5! In the process, you can stockpile enough goods to last you through tough economic times like layoffs, medical bills, and other unforeseen financial events. The trick is knowing how to coupon effectively.

Here’s how:

1. Gathering

You need to first set aside several hours a day to hunt for new coupons. You may be swarmed by free coupons in the mail, newspapers and on the internet. I depend quite heavily on online coupons, so the bulk of my time is spent looking through coupon websites. My advice is to first gather as many coupons you can from various sources, then sort through them one by one. In addition, I go to various websites that upload electronic coupons directly to my store rewards cards.

2. Filing

Use a proper filing method to store your coupons systematically to keep tabs on expiration dates and maximize your coupon stacking. Don’t be in a rush to use the coupons immediately. In order to use coupons effectively, you will often have to use them at a later date to combine with store sales. Be aware of the coupon expiration date, however, as you don’t want useful coupons to go to waste.

3. Listing

Make a list of multiple coupons you have and plan to combine store coupons with manufacturer ones to maximize savings. Take advantage of stores that double or triple coupons for even bigger savings. Write your shopping list and ensure that you have the right coupons for the items included.

4. Stacking coupons

You will need to organize your coupons so that different types of coupons in the form of sale coupons, store coupons and manufacturers’ coupons can be combined. Combining coupons is known as ‘stacking’ and is one of the main strategies used by experienced couponers to save big bucks. Mastering this strategy is key in reaping the maximum rewards.

5. Bulk buy at bottom prices

It is essential to know when prices hit rock bottom. A general rule of thumb is the 6-8 week cycle. I take note of which essentials go on sale at what price at this time so that I can strategize my shopping. For instance, when the price of chicken fillets hits $1.99/lb, I grab two months’ worth of chicken and store it in the freezer until the next sale as I know that is the lowest price for that item. Keep a record of prices during sales to help you determine the best time to stock up.

6. Combine Sales with Coupons

This strategy has been touched on again and again simply because it is the most widely used to maximize savings. For example, when my favorite store is having a sale, I use my $1-off coupon to purchase sour cream sold at 50% off its retail price. At $0.95 sale price, I manage to walk away with the item for free.

7. Bulk buying

To further take advantage of the above-mentioned offer, I use multiple $1-off coupons to stock up on 3 16-oz containers of sour cream. You may end up not having to pay a single cent if you use coupons for small items than for bigger ones.

8. Loyalty program

Sign up for store loyalty programs to take advantage of store sales. The reason why you should sign up is because some stores won’t allow non-members to shop at sale prices. You won’t be able to use your coupons unless you become a member.

9. Familiarize yourself with your local stores

Look for coupon friendly stores in your area. Some stores accept coupons but they don’t double or triple and limit their offers to store brand items. Sometimes, pricier stores can afford to take bigger losses with their sales. They use the huge sales and store promotion strategy in the hope of luring people into the stores to pick up non-sale items as well. Understand the marketing strategies used in the various stores and what kind of deals they offer before you decide on which stores to shop.

Consider the coupon tips I’ve gathered from my shopping experiences below:

  • Manufacturer coupons up to a certain value are doubled at some grocery stores.
  • You may use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon per item.
  • If the store is out of any item you planned to buy, ask customer service for a rain check.
  • Most sales are on a six-to-eight-week cycle. Buy in bulk and stock up on frequently used items during this period. Maximizing coupons during store sales will stretch your bucks even more.
  • Be brand flexible whenever possible as some brands have better sales and coupons.
  • Sign up for a new e-mail address mainly for coupon use as there is a likelihood of getting a lot of junk mail.
  • Pick one or two grocery stores and one drug store. Shopping at more than two stores can be a waste of time, energy and effort.
  • Wait for a sale after clipping coupons.

To make couponing a success, you have to be organized, apply the proper shopping tactics, and use your coupons at the right time. Consider this an investment in your financial future. Happy couponing!

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