Monday, October 1, 2012
31 Days:: Maximize Your Coupons, Minimize Your Time
Using coupons is a great way to cut your grocery spending. Clipping, organizing, and utilizing coupons can be time-consuming, but there are ways to reduce the time spent on coupon-related tasks.
(OK, bear with me...this is kind of long. I almost split it into two posts, but I'm anxious to get beyond sales and coupons, so I put everything coupon-related into one article!)
First, you have to get the coupons. The most common place to get coupons is the Sunday paper, which generally contains 1-3 coupon inserts. (Sometimes there are no inserts...and deal-bloggers everywhere put sad emoticons on their sites). These inserts are usually printed by Red Plum or Smart Source. You can also print coupons from various websites (www.coupons.com is a popular one), and some stores offer digital coupons (mPerks, for those of us who shop at Meijer).
Now that you have your coupons, you can really maximize your savings by combining coupons with sales. Instead of using your coupon for Betty Crocker cake mix right away, hang onto it until your local grocery store puts Betty Crocker cake mixes on sale.
Speaking of hanging on to coupons...I used to spend a lot of time paging through the coupons, clipping all the coupons I thought I might possibly use, and filing them according to type/variety. After that, I would look at the sale ads and pick through my little files of coupons trying to find some that matched up with sale items. Now, I use a no-sort method that I read about on a deal blog. It saves me a ton of time each week!
Here is my current system:
1. Open the Sunday paper and pull out the inserts. Quickly flip through them to find any coupons that I know I will use, regardless of whether or not the item goes on sale (my favorite hair gel, for instance). Those (very) few coupons get put into an envelope and stuffed in my purse.
2. Use a Sharpie to write the date on the front of the insert.
3. Stuff the entire insert into a magazine file, right behind last week's insert.
(Penny-pincher's tip: those half sheets of blank paper that you get from printing out just one or two coupons from a coupon site? I put those in the coupon file too, and the next time I need to print just one coupon, I feed a half sheet into the printer.)
4. Head over to Saving Addiction. I click on the Meijer matchups post for the current week, and voila...
There are tons of bloggers who have already done the time-consuming part for us by matching up the current sales with available coupons! After each sale item listed, the bloggers tell you if there is a coupon that matches up. They tell you where it is (for example: RP 9/16 means the Red Plum insert from the 9/16 Sunday paper), or give you a link to print it from www.coupons.com or another website.
(For my out-of-state readers: To find a blog in your area that's similar to Saving Addiction, check out this page on Money Saving Mom. You can click on whatever store you shop at and find a short list of that week's deals. The "short list" will also link to a local blogger, where you will find a complete list of that week's sale/coupon match-ups.)
5. Clip and print whatever coupons I need, put them in an envelope with my grocery list, and head out to the store.
My no-sort method means that I don't have all my coupons with me at the grocery store. Sometimes there are non-advertised specials that I just know I have a coupon for at home...so I miss out on some good deals. But that doesn't happen often enough to make me want to spend more time organizing/sorting/filing all those coupons!
This method works well for me, but there are many other ways you can clip/sort/organize your coupons. I see women at the store with shoe boxes, binders, and accordion files. Do what works for you!
Here are a few more ways to maximize your coupon savings:
1. Get multiple copies of the Sunday press. I'm very fortunate in that my neighbor lady gets the Sunday paper, but doesn't use the coupons...so she gives me her inserts every week. Maybe there's someone in your life who doesn't use their coupons!?!? You could also simply order another Sunday paper for yourself. The price of our newspaper keeps going up, but maybe your local paper would be willing to give you a deal if you order more than one paper.
2. Use multiple coupons. Most stores (Meijer and Target included) will let you use two coupons on one item, provided one of the coupons is a manufacturer's coupon and one is a store coupon. Target's website has lots of printable coupons, and most of them say "Target coupon" on the top. This means that if I find a coupon for Kraft mac-n-cheese on Target's website, and I also clip one out of the Smart Source insert, there's a pretty good chance I can get that box of mac-n-cheese for pennies at Target.
3. Shop on double-coupon days. Double the value of all your coupons is worth scheduling a shopping day! Sadly, our local Meijer does not offer this opportunity...but there are many stores that do. Which leads me to...
4. Check your local store's coupon policy to see what they have to offer. Our Meijer stores might not host double-coupon days, but they just started accepting competitor's coupons! Of course, there are certain limitations, but now I can use Target coupons at Meijer!
Do you shop with coupons? How much time do you put into couponing each week? What are your ideas for maximizing your coupon savings?
[A note to my email subscribers: If you'd like to add a comment or answer any of the questions, please click through to the blog and scroll to the bottom of the post to view the comments and the comment box.]
Looking for more money-saving tips? Check out the rest of the posts in this series, here.
I'm linking up over at The Nester, along with hundreds of other 31 Day-er bloggers!