We’ve all been there before, stuck behind the lady with fifty coupons. Each one has to be scanned individually. Every bar code must be accounted for. Sometimes it’s a manufacturer’s coupon that has to be treated extra special because it requires a scanning system all unto itself. This usually confuses the cashier and a manager will inevitably have to intervene. You of course are doing your best to be patient. By now you’ve looked through all the gossip magazines, wondering if Katie and Tom really will stay together. You’ve eyed all of the candy bars and fancy new gum packages, trying to remember if you need more mints for work. You’ve started rubber-necking to see if any other lanes are open. To your chagrin, all of the lanes are full, and now someone has pulled their cart in behind you. You’re stuck, you’re tired, and now you’re officially over it. You start questioning, “How much is she really saving? Is it really worth all the fuss?”
To answer, she is saving a lot, and unless your last name is Trump, then it’s worth it. There is definitely an art to using coupons so they actually work in your favor and save you money, rather than making you buy a cart full of stuff that you don’t need. A couple friends of mine really caught my attention a few months ago when they told me on the phone that they saved $80 on groceries and only spent $60. In order to see these kinds of savings, you should consider the following five tips:
- Research: Let’s face it, all of us are pressed for time these days and I’m pretty confident that when we have some time to spare, cutting coupons is low man on the totem pole. Who wants to take a half-hour to sift through all of the coupons in the Sunday paper only to find a few that you might actually use? Trying to locate them online can be just as tiresome. Luckily for us, there are some very diligent and very frugal ladies who have devoted their time to locating these deals, compiling them, and posting them online. All you have to do is download the printable coupon software. This only takes a few seconds to do and now you have a stack of coupons with just the click of a button.
- Stock Up: The advice here is plain and simple—stock up on the sale items. No, you probably don’t need fifteen boxes of cereal right now, but if you go through cereal like you do dirty underwear, then it’s worth the investment. Look at it like this: if you know that you will be using the product for a long time or in some cases indefinitely, then it’s to your benefit to spend the extra money now and save in the long run. For example, I found an in-store promotion that advertised a $5 gift card when you purchased two boxes of diapers that were also advertised as being on sale. I didn’t really want to spend the money to buy both boxes, but I knew that I would be changing dirty diapers for at least another two years, so the second box wasn’t going to waste. Not only did I save on each box, I also received the $5 gift card.
- Visit Often: In-store promotions pop up from time to time and don’t last long. Because of this, you will most likely end up in your local supermarket a couple more times than you’re used to. If a sale only runs from Wednesday through Friday, and you know that come Saturday you’ll be doing your grocery shopping and most likely will be buying the very same item that’s on sale, then it’s worth the extra trip. Besides, who doesn’t like being recognized by name, even if it is the bagger?
- Double Down: This one I didn’t learn until more recently—you can use more than one coupon on one item. Most stores will allow the use of one regular coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon. Now here’s where you really see the savings. If my local grocery store is running a BOGO (buy one, get one free) promotion on ice cream, and let’s say the ice cream costs $4.50 a pop, that’s $4.50 for two or $2.25 for one. I also have a $1 off manufacturer’s coupon plus another $.50 coupon for the same product. That’s an additional savings of $1.50. So that $2.25 is now $.75. Now you’ve just bought two cartons of ice cream for $.75. Wow!
- Get With the Program: There are so many great programs out there to help families save money. One of my personal favorites is through my local grocery store. They have a program for infants, toddlers, and pre-school age children. As soon as I became pregnant, I signed up. It took a few weeks to arrive in the mail, but I was amazed at what I received! In my box of goodies was an American Pediatrics book, an information packed newsletter, and several store coupons. What’s even more remarkable is the fact that the coupons and newsletter are all geared toward the age of your children. When I was still pregnant, I received coupons for cocoa butter and vitamins. After I had Caroline, they sent a lot of formula and diaper coupons and now that she’s reached the stage for solids, I receive coupons for baby food. It’s genius!
Like all things in life, changing your routine can be difficult. I’d be willing to bet that each of us has a shopping routine that we follow on a weekly basis. When I was in my twenties, I could almost always be found in the grocery store every Sunday night stock-piling on junk for the week. I never looked at store ads, never clipped coupons, and never once thought twice about shelling out $100 for all of it. Now I can feed a family of three for almost half that, and I can make it last almost twice as long! And with all that extra money you’ll be saving, it might be time to treat yourself to a relaxing massage.