Saving Money without Extreme Couponing
We’ve all seen the TV shows. A woman, armed with a stack of coupons and binder, marches into a grocery store and strolls out with an overflowing cart for a few dollars. The truth though is that extreme couponing takes many hours of clipping and sorting, not to mention trips to several stores to get all the deals. Another reality is that many extreme couponers also end up hoarding masses of items they will not use or didn’t even need in the first place. One takeaway from all this is that we can save plenty of money every month on our shopping trips without going off the rails. You just some good tips and a strategy to make the most of your time and money.
Step 1: Get Organized
Getting the best bang for you buck doesn’t need to involve spending hours of clipping coupons, it requires having a solid plan for using your time wisely. While extreme couponing focuses on getting as much as you can for as little as possible, it is better to focus on what you actually need and finding ways to save on what you normally buy. The first step is to get organized so the process will be efficient and you aren’t wasting time chasing bargains.
- Get familiar with your pantry and what items you regularly buy.
- Set up an accordion folder or binder to sort coupons for quick access. The smaller accordions are also convenient to carry to the store if needed.
- Make a checklist of commonly used supplies and food items to help with shopping lists and coupon clipping.
Step 2: Find the Deals
The next step is to know where to look for savings. There are plenty of places to find deals and get coupons. The trick is combining both coupons and in store sales to get the deepest savings. Here are some good sources to get started.
- The quickest way to find coupons is with printable online coupons, like this page on my website. You can quickly scan through, check the coupons you need, then hit print. It doesn’t get much easier.
- If you have extra time, pick up a Sunday newspaper. They often have a good stack of coupons and also weekly circulars for big box and grocery stores.
- If you don’t have the circulars, most store websites will have the weekly ads online. Find out what specials the stores have that week and see if you can make coupons to double up on deals.
- Subscribe to mailing lists for major brands, such as S.C. Johnson, which send out coupons for products you use.
Step 3: Shop Smart
One of the flaws with extreme couponing is making trips to several stores just to grab a few deals. Time is money, so being efficient with your shopping makes more sense. Here are some tips for maximizing your shopping time and what you buy.
- Figure out which stores offer the best prices on what you need to narrow down what to buy at which location. For example, I have a great local Italian market for my fresh foods, but Target is my go to for canned/frozen foods and household supplies since the prices are much lower.
- Shop less. Fewer trips means fewer opportunities for impulse buys.
- Don’t skip the prepared food counter, but take a good look and see what items make sense and which are a waste of money. We don’t always have time to spend preparing meals and shortcuts can be worth the extra money.
- Make a shopping list. You’re less likely to buy things you don’t need when you have a plan.
- Test store brands for common items/foods you use. Some are just as good as a name brand while other flop. Keep track of which ones you like and save a few more dollars.
- Stock up only on good discount items only if you know you’re going to use them quickly or have the extra storage space. Most likely something will be on sale again soon.
- Look into delivery services, such as Amazon Prime or local grocery delivery. These can be big time savers for commonly used items and sometimes do not cost any more than you’d pay at the store. Amazon Prime lets you fill up a large box and even has coupons for major brands. Compare prices with your store before signing up for a service.
Step 4: Refine the Process
Once you get everything together, refine the shopping and coupon process to make it time effective while maximizing savings. If you find you’re spending a lot of time chasing down a newspaper and sorting through ads, skip it and stick to printable coupons. If stocking up at Costco or Sam’s is taking a big chunk of family time out of your weekend, you’re not really saving anything. Watch for store specials and/or coupons on those items instead and save a trip.
Step 5: Add additional Saving Methods to the Mix
There are ways to tack on additional savings beyond coupons and sales, such as money back credit cards, loyalty rewards, and store memberships. Only sign up for cards you need and make sure it’s not a complicated process to redeem rewards, etc.
- Most stores offer some sort of loyalty card and some offer extra discounts or rewards. Avoid those with membership fees unless you know you’ll save much more than you’re paying.
- Get a cash back credit card and pay it off each month. Find one with a good cash back rate and use it for most of your shopping.
- Look into store debit cards that offer rewards. I shop at Target weekly, so having their Red Card debit card linked directly to my bank account means an instant savings of 5% without any extra effort.