I’m excited to be debuting my new Keep Your Change series today! Since, I’ll likely be referring to coupons again and again, I figured that I’d begin with some helpful tips for those who are looking to trim down their budgets by shopping smarter with coupons! Of course, there are several books and blogs dedicated to this, so I’ll just offer a little introduction and link to some of these helpful resources below.
I became serious about using coupons when my second daughter was born. Around this same time, the TLC show, Extreme Couponing debuted. At first I was skeptical of how people could actually save that much money using coupons, but once I saw massive grocery totals being dwindled to under $20, I thought that there must be something to this! After being on bed rest for two months, starting maternity leave, and facing mega hospital bills, I was desperate to figure out a way to save my family more money.
When I did my first Google search, I ran across the site TheKrazyCouponLady.com. This is where I had some basic beginner’s questions answered and learned how to put a coupon binder together. I also bought the founders’ book, Pick Another Checkout Lane, Honey. I’m so glad that I did, because the authors did a great job of making this whole coupon thing seem so much simpler and it was also a fun, easy read! If you are serious about changing the way you shop, I highly recommend it!
It has been nearly two years since I totally revamped how I approach grocery shopping. Each week, I check out blogs for sale-coupon match-ups. My favorites right now are I Heart Kroger and Southern Savers. I also like Faithful Provisions. Depending on what region of the country you live in, there will probably be other coupon blogs that may be more helpful for you. The key to saving money is using coupons with a sale – and using multiple coupons so you can stockpile to avoid paying full-price in the future.
Couponers have different ways that they get their hands on extra coupons. At first, I bought 2 Sunday papers each week and my parents’ gave me their coupons so I could get multiple items at a discount. Now, I get one paper and pay a handling fee for extra coupons online that I know I will use if a good deal comes along. I use CouponDede.com. I don’t always find the coupons that I want, but most of the time I am able to order what I need. Printable coupons are also another great way to get your hands on a few more deals at a major discount. Here are some great sites:
–Smartsource.com (Smartsource also has an app for the iPad now.)
–Target.com (Great place to find several Target store coupons to match with manufacturer’s coupons.)
–Kroger.com (You can add digital coupons to your Kroger Plus card.)
Disclaimer: I do not advocate clearing shelves as glorified on Extreme Couponing. I think there needs to be a level of respect for others who are also trying to save money. I consider what I do to be “Strategic Couponing.” Remember, though, that rain checks on sold-out items can guarantee that you can still get products at the sale price and still use your coupons as long as they haven’t expired yet.
When I first started out, I wanted to catch every great deal at every store, but since then I have found that is a major sanity-saver to focus on 2-3 stores. The ones that I stick to are Kroger, Publix, and sometimes Walgreens. Kroger and Publix double coupons up to 50 cents, which means that a $.50 coupon is actually worth $1! All three of these stores also let you use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item.
I know that jumping into the world of coupons can seem overwhelming. And I’m not going to lie, it really feels like another part-time, even full-time, job at first. But after a couple months of seeing prices, sale cycles, etc., and finding a coupon organizing system that works, it will be much more manageable on a practical level.
It still requires time each week to cut and file coupons, study match-ups, and write up lists, but it has become a normal part of my routine. I don’t make excel spreadsheets to compare store prices or have piles of coupon inserts in my closet, but I still am benefiting greatly from planning grocery trips around coupons and sales! I have gotten a variety of products for free, or just pennies, and it feels great to be able to provide for my family in this way! I can’t imagine shopping any other way and I am still learning about new ways to save!
If you are considering starting on this journey of couponing, good luck and get ready to enjoy your savings! Feel free to ask any questions!