Wednesday, March 18, 2009
How to save money and clip coupons the RIGHT way!
There are tons of websites now that preach about how to save money with coupons and almost all of these sites are super informative. I am even a member of some of these coupon sites and frequent them often, so I am in no way bashing them. Some are out to make money off your subscription and others are free but at any rate, you can easily get your fill of coupon saving deals anywhere on the internet. HOWEVER, over the past 4 years I have learned more about coupons than I could ever imagine. I have lost money, saved money, spent money and tossed out bins of expired coupons. I have spent hours searching forums and cutting coupons exactly on the dotted lines...I have arrived at stores at 6am to get the deals...I have held up numerous line making sure the cashier rings up each coupon precisely...and although I have saved some money, I have also spent more than I would of, bought too many things that expired, thrown out lots of stuff I never used AND wasted countless hours I could have been making money only to save $12. Is your time worth $12 an hour?
I am an eternal deal seeker..I know this, it's in my nature. What else do Scorpio's do than dig and dig and find secrets?? I am the girl digging in bins, rummaging through yard sales and digging up dirt online. If there is a diamond in the rough, I will find it. So naturally, my obsession with couponing got way out of hand. Literally every Sunday, I would spend 5 hours preparing to go to the store. Even now, I can't go past a coupon and not feel the drive to take it home or attempt to use it. However, it's like an addiction and admitting this is the first step to recovery.
Coupons are like money and it's true..who the hell wants to throw money away? But if it's not something you would normally buy, then it's wasted money. I don't normally buy Hanover's frozen veggies....just because it might be on sale, doesn't mean I need to stock up on it and spend $4 while saving $8. That's still $4 I spent that I didn't really have to. Usually the store brand comes out to equal the same price..usually being the key word. Don't get me wrong, there are things you can get free which obviously are worth going after but if you are spending $20 in gas to drive around to 5 different stores to get it all, what have you honestly saved?? And how many hours have you wasted of your time to do so??
I try to be more selective now. I don't judge anyone who clips every coupon and goes after every deal..I have been there, done that. I don't have the time or patience anymore. I have found that I save more when I only buy things I really need and I only go to one store every two weeks or so. For someone like myself who works, has several hobbies and a family, my time is very limited. If I wasn't so scatterbrained, I could probably spend more time on clipping coupons.
Here are my coupon clipping rules for anyone trying to REALLY pinch pennies!
1. Do not pay for coupons unless it's something you always, always buy and it rarely goes on sale. For instance, I always buy Splenda. It rarely goes on sale and I don't normally shop at the store that sells the off-brand of it. If I see coupons for a dollar or less, I will purchase them in bulk. I have no know that they can save me an enormous amount to do so. I think it's crazy to see people buying coupons for almost what they are worth. Coupons can be scored for free at recycling bins, on freecycle groups, coupon exchanges on yahoo groups and from your friend and family.
2. Only clip coupons for products you can use and do use on a daily basis. Make sure it's something you would buy otherwise.
3. Always bring your coupons with you so you can use them in the heat of the moment.
4. Use a free site like www.afullcup.com to research sales and check your store ads.
5. Always pair a coupon and sale together unless you absolutely have to!
6. Find which stores have the best prices. Personally, I buy all my paper and cleaning products at Target. I love their store brands and even their grocery items are really good deals without sales. Aldi has the best all around prices for me however they do NOT take coupons. Taste and quality is important too and both Target and Aldi rock my world.
7. Trade coupons when you can and give away ones you don't want..it's good Karma. You never know who needs denture cleaner...
8. Always read the coupons correctly and make sure you understand them. Make sure they have not expired..see how many items it's for, etc. Nothing sucks more than getting to the cash register and realizing it won't ring because you read it wrong.
9. Coupons for saving 50 cents off 4 items is a media trick. Add it up my friend...50 cents is not that great and you have to buy numerous items which you might not have needed. Stick to coupons good on one item...especially if you can double them. It's such a better way to do it and you get more bang for the buck.
7. Try to use coupons at stores that double or even triple coupons. Martin's locally doubles all the time..but they also have higher prices on things.
Personally, WEIS stores blow! I don't care for Food Lion anymore...their produce is a joke to be honest. They are also a smaller store with limited options. I have found decent prices on meat there before but you have to be careful.
Outside of grocery stores, there's also CVS deals with coupons but to get started doing that, you have to spend spend spend to get ECB bucks. Then when you use your free ECB's, it's just like getting back some of the money you originally spent. I try to stay away from ECB's as I have spent hundreds of dollars doing this and have nothing but some make-up to show for it.
And my last rule is make meal plans and google leftover items in your cupboards. What use is all that food if you aren't going to use it? Clean your food stashes out monthly in the pantry and weekly in the fridge. Try to use everything before shopping again.
I may not have a stockpile right now and I might not have saved $40 on coupons but I have saved a load more than that by shopping at Aldi's this past month. I have used almost everything and was still able to try lots of new things without spending 8 hours doing coupons.
I still clip my coupons for anything I might buy at Target or Martin's IF I happen to be out that way but I always always always pass my leftovers to someone else to use.