Saving money is something that’s on everyone’s mind, and there are plenty of ways to accomplish it. One way you’ve probably saved money in the past is using coupons. Some people go to long lengths to get the best deals and collect the most coupons for their own personal stockpiles. You may be familiar with this from the TLC show “Extreme Couponing” which aired between 2010-2012. Here are some highlights of enormous savings from the show:
As you can see, couponing can be an incredibly effective way to save money. It’s also an exciting hobby to ease into if you want to save money on the products you already buy. By starting small, you can eventually have larger grocery trips and save hundreds of dollars by shopping smarter and not harder. If all of that sounds interesting to you, then start your couponing journey now to become the best frugal shopper you can be. Here are seven strategies of how to start couponing for beginners:
- Source coupons in various ways
- Get familiar with your favorite stores
- Join a loyalty program
- Be organized and make a plan
- Combine coupons and sales
- Buy multiples of a product
- Avoid making easy mistakes
Source coupons in various ways
You may not have noticed, but coupons are everywhere you look and they come in different forms. The greatest couponing tool in the 21st century is the Internet and mobile apps. Websites like Valpak.com and HotCouponWorld.com offer huge databases of coupons to print or use digitally. Another way of finding coupons is through inserts in magazines and Sunday newspapers you are already subscribed to like Smart Source and Proctor and Gamble. If you don’t already receive these inserts, you can directly email these companies to receive coupons for specific products you request. Using these means of collecting coupons, you’ll start to have a well-rounded supply of savings. Don’t have enough coupons for your favorite products? Ask around from family and friends for any of their unwanted ads or coupons for a complete grocery trip.
Get familiar with your favorite stores
Couponing for beginners means starting small and simple. Before you can master couponing every time you shop, it’s easier to master one store you shop at most often. Not all stores will have the same merchandise, sales, and coupon policies. For example, does your store allow using multiple coupons or stacking coupons on a single item or accept expired coupons? Following stores on social media accounts or subscribing to an email list can give you previews of upcoming deals like HEB’s Weekly Ads. But this doesn’t just go for grocery stores, there are even special ways to save money for online retailers like Amazon.
Join a loyalty program
Along with getting familiar with a single store, joining their loyalty program will bring even more savings. Not every couponer uses loyalty programs, but members often receive discounts and rewards non-members do not. Except not every program is designed the same. Popular loyalty programs from Target and Kroger offer members store cards and personalized coupons for signing up for free. However, Walmart and Amazon offer similar discounts plus free deliveries but come with yearly fees. Lastly, look for programs that offer points or cashback on purchases to save more on your next trip.
Be organized and make a plan
Couponing for beginners doesn’t have to be chaotic when everything falls into place for an organized shopping trip. Couponers usually have two supplies of coupons they own: an initial pile and then coupons to bring while shopping. Some ways to store unused coupons include accordion folders, magazine folders, or the classic binder method with clear plastic sleeves. But don’t worry if your coupon stash isn’t that large yet. Smaller, more portable coupon organizers are better to carry while shopping like paper envelopes, pouches, or a spare wallet. After choosing a way to hold onto coupons, organize them by category, department, or expiration dates. You don’t want to mix up the wrong coupons once you get to the check-out lane!
Productive shopping includes more than organizing coupons beforehand. Just like regular shopping, make a list of your needs to prevent impulse purchases. Think about the products you typically buy first and then seek out sales and deals, not the other way around. Try to avoid shopping skipping sections only to realize you have missed items on your list. Some stores offer mobile apps that organize shopping lists by aisle for an optimized experience. Finally, there’s a chance your store will price match a competitor’s ad for better savings on the same product. If your store’s coupon policy allows, make sure to do your research and bring the ad with you to the register.
Combine coupons and sales
Part of making a plan for couponing is being aware of ongoing promotions. This means following a store’s weekly ads and being informed of the usual retail prices of an item. It’s easy to want to spend money as soon as there’s a coupon available to use. But waiting until an item goes on sale/clearance before it expires is the smartest strategy for couponing for beginners.
Besides combining sales and coupons, there are some specific couponing strategies to combine for the most savings. We mentioned earlier a technique couponers call “stacking” which means using multiple coupons on one item. Usually, this involves using a store coupon and a manufacturer or digital coupon. Any of these combinations can give you something called “overage”. This happens when the total value of your discounts is more than the listed price of an item. Like saving $1.50 on an item listed at $1.00. Not all stores will accept overage on an item or as your final total (when the store owes you money) so check policies beforehand!
Buy multiples of a product
Once you begin shopping, you’ll find that you can save more money by buying multiples of products. Or certain deals will offer you free items with your purchase like “buy one get one” and similar discounts. The best practice is to buy products when they hit their rock bottom sale prices. And to buy just enough to meet your needs until the next sale cycle (between three and six months) when the same deal is likely to occur.
Expert couponers keep stockpiles of products they have earned deals on to buy for the future. In the excitement of wanting to build your stockpile, it’s typical to buy groceries or items you won’t end up consuming. Instead of throwing away those products before they expire, donate them somewhere like a community center in Montgomery County, Texas to needy communities. Remember that couponing isn’t an excuse to buy items in excess just because you can save money.
Avoid making easy mistakes
Now that you know how to begin couponing for beginners, you’re set to start collecting, shopping, and saving. Even with everything taken into account before you shop, there are still some strategies to follow during your shopping trip. Here’s a list of actions to take to avoid making easy mistakes:
- Finding balance: Couponers tend to go overboard by spending too much time and effort on a single trip. Saving money can be addictive, but balance couponing with other things you enjoy.
- Stay on top of couponing habits: It’s easy to not keep track of simple things like store policies or forget a few coupons at home. Double-check that you have everything according to plan before leaving the house.
- Don’t buy something just because there is a coupon: Impulse buys can be tempting when couponing for beginners. Ask yourself if you would still buy this item without a coupon or would you end up donating it before using it yourself. Remember that you are couponing for a purpose: to save money.
- Track your spending: Count up your total as you shop to predict how much you’ll save at the register. Keep a personal budget in mind for variable purchases and do your best not to go over. Some couponers do this by only paying cash at grocery stores.
- Read the fine print: Know just what each coupon will save you and its restrictions. Don’t attempt to use the coupon incorrectly and have the integrity to be honest with the cashier.
- Pay attention at the register: Sometimes a coupon doesn’t scan correctly, an item rings up as an incorrect price, or the cashier makes a mistake. Speak up respectfully if you have concerns about what appears on the computer screen or the receipt.
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