Tips for Making Coupons Count

Last week, we looked at 9 of the reasons why so many people are only occasional coupon users. This week, let’s consider 10 ways you can get more out of couponing (without going to extremes). Try these tips for a month and see if it makes a difference in your household finances.

  1. Understand the rules. Reading the fine print is always the best way to avoid wasted time (since time is money). Nothing is more frustrating than making a special trip to buy an item only to find out that you misread the expiration date or other restrictions on the coupon. For example, you may not be able to “stack” a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon if one or the other specifies that it can’t be used with any other offer.
  2. Start with using coupons for stores where you already shop and by searching manufacturer’s websites for coupons on items you buy regularly. This way, you can find coupons you are most likely to actually use (without buying products you don’t need).
  3. Match up coupons with items that are already advertised as on sale via the store’s circular or weekly emails. Becoming familiar with deals at your local store is the best way to take advantage of doubling events where you can get twice the face value of a store’s coupons in savings.
  4. Sign up for whatever “frequent shopper” savings program your local grocery store offers. This allows the store to track your purchases and offer you coupons for items you buy frequently.
  5. Know who takes what. A manufacturer’s coupon issued through a specific grocery store may not be good at another store. For example, a Kroger’s coupon printed along with your grocery receipt may say it is a manufacturer’s coupon. But Wal-Mart won’t accept it. Sam’s Club won’t accept any coupons at all.
  6. Sort coupons by expiration date and by store. This ensures that you use coupons before they expire without having to purchase everything at once. This is especially helpful for items like produce and meats that won’t store well for long periods.
  7. Always list your coupon items on your grocery list so you don’t forget to pick them up while you’re at the store. Specify the size, quantity, or other details on your list so you pick the right item. For example, if a coupon is only for a large bottle of juice or box of cereal, write down the minimum number of oz you must buy to qualify.
  8. Remember coupons don’t have to be clipped from paper. Look for more convenient savings. Some stores let you load coupons directly onto your member’s card. Others let you use your smartphone to download coupons for redemption at the register.
  9. Avoid paying for coupons until you have more experience with couponing. Rookie mistakes mean wasted money.
  10. If you’re not really into the scavenger hunt aspect of couponing but still like teaching your children thrifty habits, put your kids in charge of locating useful coupons. Give them a finder’s fee equal to 50% of the money you save.
Tags: , Finance, Shopping