Saving money on purchases by finding and using coupons is something that many people don’t do at all because they think it’s for old ladies. A small minority turn it into a fanatical obsession. In reality, unless you have money to burn, it’s foolish not to spend a comparatively small amount of time to save what may accumulate into a sizable amount of money later.
Couponing can be tedious, but it’s rarely fruitless if it’s done right. Follow this guide to spending less and eating better.
Lose the Ego
Your granny brings coupons to the store to use when she pays with coin change, we know. But a couponer isn’t cheap — he’s smart. Just do the math. If you can save even a modest $9 by looking for coupons for 15 minutes, that’s more than you make at work if you don’t earn at least $36 an hour. Forget what the guy behind you thinks; the guy on this side of the food separator on the conveyer belt thinks with his head.
Now that you consider couponing to be making money instead of saving it, try to shrink down the amount of time it takes to make your theoretical $9 so that if it were your job, you’d be making even more per hour. Time is money. It doesn’t matter how much you save if you spent more time gathering coupons than you did shopping at the store.
Mimic People Who Know More Than You
Couponing is like making sangria: Everybody thinks the way they do it is best. There are literally countless strategies, and if you talk to people who are into it, they’ll share them with you like unsolicited stock tips.
As previously stated, a small minority of people turn couponing into a fanatical obsession. Many of those people have blogs, some that are well done and widely read. They blog about it because they enjoy it, they’re good at it, and they like to brag about how much money they saved, because to get good at couponing is a true talent. Visit these blogs, read what they do, pick a strategy you like, and borrow from it. You’re not stealing intellectual property. They publicize their exploits because they’re proud of what they’ve done, and they want to share the information. Take them up on the offer.
Boasting more than 4 million members, a free membership to Coupon Mom gives clear, doable advice and a huge amount of free printable coupons — more than $800 worth that are updated daily. E-books and video tutorials recount the basics, and an FAQ section offers step-by-step strategies.
Weekly “best deal” lists are updated for grocery stores, drug stores, and big-box chains, and a coupon database is broken down by region to pinpoint the stores close to you. They also offer a loyalty card, a newsletter, and monthly $500 cash giveaways.
Coupon Geek is more of a coupon-based lifestyle site. They have some awesome recipes and wellness advice, but no fluff. The Geek offers solid giveaways and tons of printable coupons, rebates, coupons for restaurants, and online coupons.
Coupon Geek has a truly top-notch basics section and a remarkably thorough tutorial on couponing lingo, which will save you time in the long run and, therefore, make you more efficient. What sets the Geek apart, though, is the basic breakdown into areas where you can save a ton: baby, pet, photo, and organic.
The Frugal Girls
The Frugal Girls has the awesome distinction of breaking down couponing not by region, not by store, not by product, but by occasion. Wedding, birthday, Easter, graduation, fall, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, a baby shower — you name it, they have a coupon for it.
They have deals on clothing and shoes, and they offer cheap gift ideas as well as an extensive fashion discount section. Their back-to-school savings apply to you throughout the season, even if neither you nor anyone you know actually goes to school. There is literally almost nowhere you can go or nothing you can buy that they can’t save you money on.
Pick Your Place
If you really want to exert the absolute minimum effort, build a strategy based on which store will work best for you, and stick with that store. One of the most basic forms of couponing is to find a chain where you can buy everything you need from office supplies to groceries to board games to clothing to a new ladle. Sign up for their rewards card and build up loyalty points.
The best way to make this basic strategy pay off is to be brand negotiable. Shop for the type of product you want, not the brand. A bright sticker will indicate a deal on a specific brand for those who have a rewards card, and go with that unless you absolutely object to the brand.
Eventually your checkout receipt will come with coupons printed out — and even vouchers for in-store credit — based on purchases you’re likely to make. At the very least, put them aside, and don’t let them expire.
Couponing comes with a stigma, but the stigma is thoughtless. We should be looking up to the people who try their best to game the system and keep more of their hard-earned money for themselves.
An incredibly small investment of time can truly make free money appear — money that adds up quickly because you can essentially save money using coupons for everything you buy. You can eat and live better, save more money, and — once you get good at it — even have a little fun couponing.