Money Matters Monday Couponing 101: The Basics of Couponing
In last week’s Money Matters Monday, I briefly discussed couponing as a way to save on necessities at your local grocery or big box store. This week I would like to delve a little further into the topic of couponing. Below are the key items that anyone should know as they approach couponing in an effort to save money.
Remember that the point of couponing is to be frugal. Be sure that you are not spending too much money to get your coupons. Realistically one newspaper plus asking any family members/friends to save the coupons that come in their paper should be enough to save a good amount of money. If you find that you are spending money to obtain coupons, it may be time to take a step back. In the interest of frugality, make sure that you are taking advantage of any discounts on newspaper subscriptions, checking out other local newspapers to see if you can get a better deal with another paper and searching for printable coupons online. There are some services online where you can buy clipped coupons or whole inserts but this can become very expensive and you will end up spending more than you intend in an effort to use all of your coupons.
It feels great to get a good deal but if you don’t end up using the item you bought, it has gone to waste along with the money that you spent on it. It is tempting to grab something because it is a good deal so consider doing a little planning before you head to the grocery store with the goal of reducing or eliminating unplanned purchases. The best way to approach this is to sit down with your grocery store circular, your coupons and pen/paper. The goal of this is to plan meals for the week including meals for work, school and home. By looking at what is on sale at the store and combining it with items for which you have coupons, you can develop meal plans with a low total cost. You can also find ways to leverage large packages of products, for example, if a three pound package of chicken is on sale you can plan a chicken dinner and then cook up some leftover chicken to put on a salad to bring to work the next day. The end goal is to ensure that you use everything that you bought and to not over buy simply because you had a coupon.
On the subject of “stocking up” on non perishable items — approach this endeavor with caution. Ask yourself if you truly will use 100 bottles of mustard before they expire, ask yourself if you have the room in your home for that mustard and ask yourself if the deal is too good to leave behind, can you donate those items to a pantry or shelter? Again, the money is not well spent if you have to throw items out due to expiration. Be sure that you read the terms of the coupon carefully and understand the purchase requirements in order to get the deal. Again if the coupon requires the purchase of multiples of an item to get a small amount off your bill, consider if you can truly use that much product.
Based on the planning process that is detailed above, you should have a general idea going into your shopping trip of how much money you will spend and how much you will save. A good idea is to only bring enough money for what you intend to buy with a small cushion of extra cash. This will reduce the occurrences of impulse purchases which will cause your bill to increase beyond your planned budget.
The last couponing basic that I will share is to educate yourself on the coupon policy for your favorite store. If your local store advertises coupon doubling or tripling, make sure you understand the rules and take advantage of those savings. Also be sure that you understand if there are restrictions on the number or type of coupons in any given transaction. For example, a store may limit like coupons to 5 per transaction and turn away internet printed coupons that are for more than $5.00. Some stores have taken to prohibiting splitting transactions which means that you cannot do two transactions back to back. This is often used as a way to work around the established rules of that particular store. You will find that cashiers and Managers are much more likely to help you navigate through an issue if you are knowledgeable on the coupon policy and are polite.
In summary make sure that you are approaching all decisions with frugality in mind. It is not frugal to throw out expired or rotten food because you bought too much. Make sure you approach meal planning, grocery list compilation and coupon planning as one connected activity to ensure that you will use the food you buy and that you are not paying too much for necessities. Lastly, be sure to educate yourself on the coupon policy at your local store in order to maximize your savings and make your shopping experience a pleasant one.
Do you use coupons when you shop? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for using them.