Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Making The Most of Your Coupons

A couple months ago when I wrote about cutting my food budget, I mentioned couponing as one of the methods I used. If coupons are used incorrectly, they may hurt your budget causing you to choose to buy products you don't need and may not want or use, simply because you can save money. However, if used correctly, coupons can be a fantastic tool for saving money. And when you're working to pay off debt like we are, every penny counts!


Where Do You Get Coupons?

Clip-able Coupons:

You can find coupons in your Sunday newspaper. Inserts from SmartSource, RedPlum and P&G are chock full of clip-able coupons. You can also usually find a couple in the Parade Magazine insert in the paper. If you don't want to get a subscription, check your recycling center for Sunday papers or ask around your neighborhood or within your circle of friends and family. I don't use the bulk of the coupons I have but I save baby coupons and pet coupons for friends that can use them. The rest I list on Freecycle (another good resource for coupons).

Magazines advertise heavily and every once in awhile you will find an ad with a coupon attached. All You Magazine is a great resource for clip-able coupons.

Last week at the dentist's office, I saw a stack of coupons for crest toothpaste, toothbrushes and mouthwash. There were also coupons for Listerine and ACT mouthwash. Although we never have to buy toothbrushes (we get new ones from the dentist every 6 months), I snagged some of the other coupons for toothpaste and mouthwash.

Printable Coupons:
Manufacturers coupons can be printed online. Find them on brand websites or places like Coupons.com. Most of the time, you are allowed to print only 2 of the same coupon.

CommonKindness.com is a printable coupon website that offers lots of coupons for mainly organic and fair trade products. And every time you print and use one of their coupons, CommonKindness "provides funds to support your favorite charities and causes" that you choose from their extensive list.

Digital Coupons:
Store loyalty cards can carry digital coupons. You can add these coupons directly to your cards from the grocery store websites or you can go to RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com. These are two of the newspaper coupon publications and they will let you load some coupons directly to select loyalty cards. You can then print out a "shopping list" of the coupons associated with each loyalty card.

Coupons in samples:
Most every free sample you receive will come with a coupon...many times it is a VERY nice coupon. I recently received a Listerine coupon for $3 off!  I also received two $5 coupons for Science Diet cat food with no expiration date.

Coupons in Stores:
The easiest coupons to obtain and use are the ones right there in the store aisles right nest to the product. They are the ones on tear pads or in blinking machines that dispense coupons. Use one now and take one for later.

How Do You Maximize Coupon Savings?


"Before I started using coupons, my trigger price for cereal was $1.77. After I started couponing, my trigger price dropped because I knew I could buy cereal for $1 to $1.49 per box. As I got better at couponing I found I could get the final price even lower on cereal. Now if I can't buy cereal for 50 cents or less, I usually won't buy it. I have a stockpile of cereal that will last a while so I can wait for the right sale and the right coupons to be able to get that price."


Doubled Coupons:
Two stores I frequent will double coupons up to $1 value (coupons 49 cents and below double while coupons 50 cents to 99 cents become $1). If this caused an overage, one of those stores will even apply the overage to your remaining total.

"Double coupons" makes me wonder why on earth I didn't take advantage of coupons before. I used to turn my nose up at "50 cents off" coupons. But at the right stores, those coupons become "$1 off". In some cases, these doubled coupons equates to "free stuff".

These are all free items from one shopping trip. The Success Rice was purchased for free using a coupon from the manufacturer for one free product. All the pasta and the Clif bar were purchased for free using doubled manufacturer coupons against already low sale prices.

Stacked Coupons:
Sometimes, things will align just right for you to be able to "stack" coupons. That means you are using a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon for the same product.

This example equals $5 in savings:



Matching Coupons to Sales:
The best way to maximize your coupons is to use them against sale items at various stores to find the best deals. This can be a lot of work, especially when you take into account different stores policies for doubling and stacking, but thanks to the internet there are sites that do most of the legwork for you.

My favorite site to use is The Krazy Coupon Lady. On this site, you get a heads up about the coupons coming out in the Sunday paper. She also will match coupons to sale items for countless stores (choose your store to find your deals). Then, if there are deals spotted throughout the week, those are posted as well (and matched to coupons). Sign up for their email list and you won't miss a deal.

I was able to buy these nail polishes for The Girl for 27 cents a piece from Walgreens using coupons and a BOGO half off sale (she chose the colors based on her favorite Pokemon). If I had started couponing just a couple weeks earlier,  I could have scored these at Kmart for FREE!

These sites also track Target's store coupons but don't track any personalized grocery store coupons that you may receive in the mail or online so you'll have to match those up yourself.

Cash Back Offers:
You're saving money using coupons, but there's more you can do beyond that. With just a little more time and effort (just a little), you can get cash back for certain products. It's like a delayed coupon. I'd call it a rebate, but rebates can be a pain in the neck and take a long time.

Checkout51 lets you take a picture of your receipt and upload it to their website to get cash back on certain product purchases. New deals are posted every Thursday and run for a week. When you buy them (one or any combination of them), you take a picture of your receipt and upload it. When your account reaches $20, they send you a check. I've used this service the most, mainly because you don't have to have a smartphone to use it as with similar services.

SavingStar is another cash back offer website. They don't have as many cash back deals to offer as Checkout51 but you can find digital coupons here to send to select loyalty cards.

Ibotta offers cash back and is quite popular but requires you to use an app. Again, I don't have a smartphone so I can't take advantage of these deals.

Speaking of rebates...

If you have the patience and the time to put forth the effort, look into rebates. I purchased Crest Mouthwash priced at $3.99. I used a $1 coupon and then sent in a rebate form for $3. Within a few weeks I had a $3 debit card in my mailbox.
"Before I started using coupons, buying deodorant was always so expensive! When it went on sale, I would buy a couple containers even though it still cost a lot. When I started couponing, I was excited to get deodorant for 49 cents ($2 coupon against a sale item). Last week, I got three deodorants for free...just by matching doubled coupons to sale items. Now I have enough deodorant for the entire family and won't have to buy any for the next year."
There are so many ways you can save. You just need to be patient and wait for the right deals. So take your time, stay away from things you wouldn't normally buy and have fun couponing!



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