Monday, January 18, 2010

Basic Couponing 101: Step 2 - Coupon Tips

This is Step 2 in a series of Basic Couponing 101:  Easy Coupon Tips
Did you miss out on Step 1: Stockpiling?

  1. Keep ALL of the coupons that come in the inserts.  You never know what kind of great deal the store will have.  It's the worst feeling ever to search your clipped coupons for a great deal only to learn you didn't clip the coupon and already threw away your inserts.  
  2. Start SIMPLE buying only what's on sale with a coupon and stockpiling the item if it's a great deal.  When you first start out couponing, you will still need to purchase your "regular" grocery items in addition to what's on sale.  Once you have established a stockpile, you'll be able to reduce your grocery spending tremendously.  
  3. Plan MEALS based on what's in your stockpile and what's on sale at the store that week.  I confess, I didn't start meal planning until a little over 6 months ago.  And I love it!  It's much easier on your budget to plan a meal based on what's in your pantry.  I also find I am able to be more creative with our meals, even trying new recipes.  Having our meals planned out for the week bring a sense of calm to my life.  It's one less thing I need to worry about during my chaotic week.  We're able to save money on the "restaurant" front too.  Having meals planned for the week reduce the need to grab take-out on the way home.
  4. Create a SEPARATE stockpile for special events.  Are you planning to attend a baby shower in a few months?  Then you'll want to pick up on the diaper and wipe deals that go on at the stores every few weeks (remember the 6-8 week cycle).  Or maybe your family is planning a camping trip or beach vacation.  If so, then stock up on items you'll need for that trip when you see them go on sale.  It's much better to pay $2.50 for a 12 pack of Coke than to pay $6.00 at the Mom & Pop gas station in the middle of nowhere.  
  5. Don't have brand LOYALTY.  This is a tough one for me.  I still struggle with it, but I have found ways to creatively use my coupons and store rewards to purchase the items I really like.  For example, I love Scotts 1000 Toilet Paper.  It costs about $7 for a 12 pack.  Occasionally, the drug stores will run sales and I'll be able to get a 4 or 6 pack for $2.50.  I'll use my coupons with the store rewards and still be able to save money on the brand I love.  However, this is not to say I will turn my nose up to FREE toilet paper.  In fact, Kroger had a sale at some point for a Charmin 4 pack at $1.00.  I had a $1.00 coupon for Charmin which meant I got FREE toilet paper.  If you see an item that is FREE after coupons or store rewards, why not try it out, you might be surprised how much you love it!
  6. Store brands are NOT ALWAYS the best deal.  Before I learned to coupon properly, I shopped at Walmart buying the Great Value brand thinking I was doing myself a favor by saving a few pennies.  It's interesting to note that stores can keep 100% of their profit on their brand versus having to share their profit with a National brand.  So while it might look like a good deal on the shelf, in the end we are only hurting ourselves in the wallet.  In fact, you will learn shopping for National brands when they are on sale and using a coupon will be cheaper than store brands.  Don't get me wrong, I still pick up a store brand when I need too, but it's not often. 
  7. Take advantage of SEASONAL SHOPPING.  You will notice during the summer months, the stores run sales on hot dogs, pickles, buns, ketchup...etc.  When the kids go back to school, the stores run sales on snacks, cereals, juice...etc.  During the Holiday season, you will notice baking supplies go on sale.  The best part is the manufacturers get on board and offer coupons in connection with these sales.  So we get to take advantage of these specials and get products for bottom dollar.  Another aspect of seasonal shopping is purchasing fresh produce.  You'll find seasonal produce is cheaper when it's at its peak.  And it's tastier too!  You can learn more about food co-ops or you-pick farms.   These are great options when you are looking to provide fresh, seasonal and organic produce for your family.  We make an annual trip to the North Georgia Mountains in September/October to pick apples in the orchards.  Not only is it fun for the kids, but we're able to get wonderfully fresh apples!
Next time:  Considerate Couponing


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