The word “couponing” tends to incite drastic opinions. Most people are either in favor of it (who can live without couponing?!) or very much against it (who has time for that?). If you find yourself veering towards the latter, check out some of the tips below. We’re talking about finding a way to turn couponing into a smart money saving strategy you might even like, without taking too much of your time.
You do not need to be a crazy couponer to save money.
Find a coupon blog/website that doesn’t annoy you
There are a lot of couponing sites. There are a lot of annoying coupon sites. Bad layout with too many ads. Spend a little time browsing and see what you like best. Do you prefer one that focuses on coupons that are specific to your area? Do you like having a national overview? We like The Krazy Coupon Lady, but Coupon Mom is also popular. The one thing as a non-couponer you definitely want to make sure of is that your preferred website has a coupon database. Specifically, a printable coupon database.
Recently, printable coupon websites like Coupons.com have come to prominence. Each coupon has its own PIN and the number of times a coupon can be printed is limited by a computer’s IP address. While this sounds limiting, the coupons are free, and you don’t need to go digging for what you need. Just use the website’s search function.
There are other advantages of following a couponing site. A great deal on pasta sauce might pop up on your Facebook news feed. Or a coupon for eggs might show up on your Pinterest page. If these are things you would buy anyway, read the details. If not, no big deal. Just keep that database in mind when you need to shop.
Use coupons for things you were going to buy anyway
This is key. Yes, there are a mess of coupons for things you aren’t going to use. Focus your efforts on finding coupons for things you’re going to buy anyway. Shampoo. Dog food. Cookies. This is where that printable coupon database comes in. Make your shopping list and then see if there are any coupons available. Note, this is the complete opposite of what extreme couponers do (who find the coupon deals and then determine the shopping list). But you’re not going to that extreme, you’re just trying to save some money. Fifty cents is only fifty cents, but it’s still fifty cents.
This sort of targeted couponing allows you to save the money without spending a lot of time.
Redefine “extreme” and “stockpile”
The words “extreme” and “stockpile” have bad connotations when it comes to couponing. Throw out those ideas and start over. If you’re knocking 15% off your grocery bill, that’s 15% you aren’t paying, and while it might not seem like a lot at the time, go ahead and multiply your savings by 50 and give yourself a sense of how much that will save you over the course of a year of shopping. You’ll be surprised.
And “stockpile” does not need to mean a year’s worth of toothpaste. Who would use all of that? No, consider how much storage space you have and how quickly you go through a product. A stockpile should be enough that when you run out of something, you don’t need to immediately run out and buy the replacement. That might be only one or two extra of whatever you use.
Try the buddy system.
There are a couple reasons why having a coupon buddy can make saving money easier. One has to do with actually getting the coupons. If you decide to buy a newspaper for the coupons (you can preview the Sunday inserts before you buy a paper by searching for “Sunday coupon preview” to make sure you’re not wasting that money), you’re still not going to use all of them. But perhaps you have a coupon buddy who also buys the paper. You can swap: you give her your cat food coupons; she gives you the coupons for your favorite toothpaste. You can also swap printed coupons. Since most websites only let you print a coupon twice, if you need four bottles of salad dressing for that party next month, he prints off his two and you print him the coupons for his preferred razors.
Another way the buddy system works is with actually shopping. Frequently, coupons require you to buy multiples of something to use the coupon. I don’t need six yogurt cups, but maybe my buddy and I would each like three. Buy what the coupon requires and even up with your shopping partner at the end.
Think outside the grocery store.
Pick your favorite stores. Sign up for their loyalty program if they have one and opt into their emails, at least for a little while. A lot of the best non-grocery coupons will show up in your inbox.
And finally here are a few more tips before you go couponing:
- When printing coupons, make sure your ink is full. Difficult to read barcodes means it won’t scan and the cashier will probably reject it.
- Photocopying coupons is fraud and can land you in jail. Just don’t do it.
- Don’t buy something just because you have the coupon. It doesn’t actually save you money.
- Here are the three things you need to make sure about the store’s coupon policy: Do they accept coupons? Do they accept printed coupons? Do they restrict the number of coupons you can use in a transaction?
- See if your preferred grocery store has electronic coupons that get associated with your loyalty card. This saves time clipping and means you don’t have to remember to hand coupons over to the cashier.
- Most printable coupons expire in 30 days. Don’t print until you’re ready to shop.
- Besides Coupons.com (which recently started being traded on the stock exchange), other good sites are RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com.