Clip and Save: Using Coupons

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Coupons are not a new sensation.  I remember the cost saving measures my mom would take to stretch our grocery dollar... clipping and sorting and filing (and growling when she missed an expiration date).

I am not that person, but I do think there is real value in couponing.  Like most things in life, you get out what you put in.  There are some people who are very serious (maybe too serious) about couponing and pay almost nothing for their groceries each week.  They probably have to dedicate far more time to the cause than I could.

However, what if you could save half of your grocery bill each week? What would you do with half of your annual grocery budget back in your pocket? There may be a few changes that you could make that would let you keep some of your hard earned money.

savour... saving

Get the rest after the jump...

Using Coupons

The first thing you will probably have to do is change the way you shop.  Many of us stop at the store each evening and pick up dinner.  Some do better by actually making a list and going once a week.  Better yet are those who make a list and take corresponding coupons.  

Instead, practice shopping and planning from your pantry.  Make your meals around what you have and then supplement with things from the grocery store.  For example, if you have pasta shells, canned tomatoes, and frozen spinach, plan for a stuffed shell dinner.  Now all you need is some ricotta and you are on your way.  Write down the things you need (in this case, only one) and shorten your weekly list.

Now, while you are there, be sure to bring your coupons and purchase things to re-stock your pantry.  By buying things that are on sale with a coupon you get it at a greatly reduced price and then plan around it later.  This stockpiling method may not have much impact in the beginning, but within a few months it will really start to pay off.

To save even more, take stockpiling a step further by always purchasing staple items (toothpaste, dishwasher tabs, shampoo) when you have a coupon and it is on sale.  You won’t stop using these items so why buy it at full price?  Purchase it in advance and save it for a later date.

To make this plan work best you will need plenty of coupons (and storage space) for things you use.  Get them from your Sunday paper, from friends or family who don’t/won’t use theirs, from coffee shops with bins of Sunday papers that have been read and left behind, or even from a newspaper recycling station.  Caution: only save coupons for things you would ordinarily use.  Buying unnecessary items negates saving on the necessary ones.

More things to consider:

Be willing to invest the time up front to organize your coupons in a way that will make them useful to you.

Plan your meals around what is in your refrigerator and pantry.

Know each store’s coupon policy.

Check your store’s websites. You will likely find extra savings there.

Find out if your local store offers rain checks on sale items.

Find out if 2/$5 mean that you have to buy two to get the deal.

Double and triple coupons?  Know the cut off amount.

Be wise about what you cut.

Coupons can be a great way to save.  All of the practices may not be for everyone.  Try your hand at saving some and take advantage of the millions of dollars worth of coupons floating around out there.  If clipping isn’t your thing, enlist the help of a kid.  Until next time...