Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Saving Money at the Grocery Stores: Using Coupons

Yesterday, I posted that using coupons is the hardest (and most time consuming) part of saving money at the grocery store.  Today, I'm going to share the basics of what I've learned about how to make the most of using coupons.

1. Clip Em - Get the Sunday paper and start clipping coupons.  When you first start I'd suggest clipping and holding on to every coupon in the paper, even for items you don't think you'll use.

2. Print Em - There are several great websites online where you can find printable coupons.  Just because it does cost something to print coupons (ink and paper) I'd suggest just printing coupons for items you know you will use.  Most of the time, printable coupons will still be there later if you don't print them when you first see them.  However, coupons for high demand products, or high value coupons may hit their print limit quickly, making it worthwhile to print them even if you aren't sure you will use them.  The major websites you'll want to check regularly (at least monthly, if not weekly) are Coupons.com , SmartSource.com, Redplum.com, CouponNetwork and Target (the store puts out a lot of coupons including some manufacturer coupons).

3. Add Em to your Loyalty Card - If your grocery store is one of those that requires a loyalty card, there is another upside to those loyalty cards.  You can add coupons directly to them.  For those who don't want to spend the time dealing with clipping and/ or printing coupons, this is a great option.  These can usually be added directly from the store website, but can also be found on Cellfire & Shortcuts.  Just sign up and add your loyalty card number then add the coupons.  The coupons will automatically be deducted when you check out.  However, you will want to make yourself a note to check those sites at least once a month to add new coupons to your account.

4. Hold Your Coupons - The biggest key in saving with coupons is learning restraint.  Once you have them in your hand there's a desire to use them right away. You're worried you'll lose them or they will expire if you don't (and understandably).  Rather than using them right away get a binder or a box and organize them in a way that makes sense to you, so you can find them later when there is a sale to match them.

5. Match Your Coupons to Sales - Early on I relied on other blogs to help me figure out which items I had coupons for (or could get coupons for) that were going to be on sale.  Usually the blog and deal sites will have previews of upcoming sales (with coupon matchups) several days before the sale starts. Checking these previews gives you a chance to see print off additional coupons that may be available that you didn't print already and just get things organized.  The blogs I rely most on are PassionatePennyPincher (for Publix & Kroger matchups) and SouthernSavers (for multiple stores), as well as the forums at We Use Coupons (they have a forum for every major grocery chain where you'll find hundreds of folks happy to help you find the best deals).

Doing all of this I found that about half of my savings come from just using coupons.  There are some trips where my coupon savings actually outweigh the savings I get from whatever sale I am shopping.  Doing both things together (shopping the sales & using coupons) is really where the savings are at.  PassionatePennyPincher has some great articles for those who are just getting started doing coupons and saving at the grocery stores, so I will direct you there for help with Coupon Lingo, and more store specific details.

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