Ok, so if you’ve made it this far, you’ve now waded through my posts, possibly read a bunch of links and watched some videos, and might be feeling completely overwhelmed! So, here are a few words of advice:
** Start off small! It’s better to focus on one store as you learn the ropes and then branch out, rather than trying to go everywhere and getting burnt out! Even if an item isn’t on sale at your store that week, it will likely be on sale again in the next few weeks, so be patient and wait for it to come around again!
** Think about your time and personality when determining how many stores to shop at. If you have a lot of time and you love to shop, you can hit several stores in your area each week to get the best deals. However, if you don’t have a lot of time, or you don’t love shopping (like me!) try and pick 1 or 2 grocery stores and 1 drug store you can hit each week.
** Don’t be discouraged if you think you don’t have a lot of time to devote to couponing. After about 5 months, I’m now able to average around 50% savings, and I only spend about an hour or two per week preparing to go to the grocery store and drug store, so this can be done, even if you don’t have a lot of time!
** As you’re building your stockpile and learning the process, remember – you’ll win some and you’ll lose some, and that’s ok! Some weeks you’ll get awesome deals and some weeks they won’t be quite as good, but instead of focusing on the percentage on each receipt, focus on the overall amount you’re saving. In the beginning, be satisfied with something like 30% – especially if you still have to buy a few full priced items. Over time that amount will increase as you build your stockpile and learn sale cycles and what constitutes a great price for various items. Like I said above, after about 5 months of shopping this way, I now average around 50%. If I had to, I could do better than that, but we still hang on to a few brand loyalties and organic products, which cut into our savings. Maximum savings comes from having no brand loyalties – not only because some products are always more expensive, but because some products also tend to have better sale prices and coupons than others at different times. So, if you don’t care what kind of toothpaste you use, you can always pay less than $0.50 per tube or sometimes even get it free! However, we’re picky about our toothpaste, so I’m willing to spend $1.50 for it – and that’s still a great price!
** Check expiration dates!! This is especially important when buying a lot of an item. Stores usually put their newer products in the back of the shelf, so dig around back there for the best date you can find. Also, if you watch “Extreme Couponing”, you may notice people buying 50 bottles of mustard or tubes of toothpaste, but remember that these kinds of items also expire! Unless you plan to donate it, you don’t want to buy a ton of something that you won’t finish before it expires, or it will be a waste of money (and of that product!).
** Try not to clear a shelf so others can buy products after you! If you must by a ton of something, call the store ahead of time to special order it. They’ll be happy to order it for you!
** If you find a shelf has been cleared, check to see if that item is being displayed elsewhere in the store. If not, go to customer service (in grocery stores) or the checkout counter (in drugstores) and ask for a rain check. I like to use my phone to take a picture of the tag first, since they’ll need the item, regular price, and sale price info for the rain check. I just show them the pic, and it makes it a lot quicker than waiting for them to walk all the way back to the item to get the info!
** You can get sale prices on “healthy” and organic foods, but it seems like it’s hard to get the same percentage off. There are also coupons for these items, but they seem to be a little more rare. If you prefer mostly healthy and organic foods, you can still shop by sales, or you can also just try and find out which stores might have them regularly at the lowest price. For example, there are a few organic products that I always get at Trader Joe’s since they rarely go on sale at my regular grocery stores for as low as Trader Joe’s charges every day!
** If you miss a sale or a coupon, don’t despair – both will come around again! I’d heard this over and over from couponing websites and videos, but for some reason I had to see it to believe it. If a couponing website designates a coupon as “hot” or “rare”, by all means, try to print it as soon as you can since it might only come around every 6 months, or it may “sell out” and no longer be printable. However, many will come around again much more quickly than that.
** Don’t print every coupon you think you might ever use! If you have the time to clip every coupon out of your coupon inserts that’s one thing, but printing millions of coupons you may never use is a huge waste of ink and ink is expensive in its own right! Remember, the object is not to shop by what coupons you have, but by sale items (potentially) paired with coupons, so I highly recommend only printing coupons you plan to use each week unless they’re rare or designated as “hot” on a website.
** Grocery stores in Southern California no longer double coupons, so if you live in my area, this makes saving here a little bit harder, but you can still get some great prices! Meanwhile, look out for “Doubler” coupons from Albertsons, which occasionally come in their weekly mailer. If they continue to work the same way as before, each doubler coupon is worth $1 when paired with a manufacturer coupon of $0.50 or more!
** Use grocery store weekly mailers in conjunction with coupon match-up sites. They won’t always show you the best deals, but they often have extra information about special sales, etc., that may only be briefly mentioned (or not as well explained) on a match-up site.
** Read the fine print on coupons and store sale information very carefully! Be on the look-out for things like limits on how much you can buy, how many items must be purchased per coupon, how many coupons can be used in one transaction, etc.
** Know your store’s coupon policy so you aren’t caught unawares! You can ask for it at the customer service desk, or often read/print it from their website.
** Don’t be discouraged! If you’ve never done this before, it will take you awhile to get the hang of it. Give yourself grace! And, by all means, if your spouse is pleased, continue to try to improve if you can, but meanwhile, be content with the results you’ve achieved so far!
We’d love to hear from you! If you’re a seasoned couponer, let us know if you have any additional tips to share! If you’re new to all of this, feel free to also ask questions – even though I wrote 4 posts, I’m sure there are topics I wasn’t able to cover. 🙂
P.S. – Note from Molly: You may be interested in viewing a free webcast hosted by Lysa TerKeurst on the topic of Summer Sanity Savers. If you know me even a little, you probably know Lysa is one of my all-time favorite Bible Study Girls! Lysa will be joining Crystal, of moneysavingmom.com on Tuesday, April 23rd at 8 pm EST. Check out the following link for more info: http://moneysavingmom.com/