In case any of you friends out there who live locally are thinking about couponing, I thought I’d share a couple of things I’ve learned so far. I’ve been couponing for almost a year now.
- You CAN save money by couponing. I almost never used coupons in the past because it seemed that even when I had a coupon for a name-brand product, the generic was still cheaper. And I’m ok with generic! However, the key to saving money is combining a coupon with a sale (preferably a buy one, get one type of sale), combining a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon (stacking), taking advantage of stores that double coupons, and stocking up when an item’s price is at its lowest.
- You will be discouraged for a few months after starting. Just accept that! It took me about 5 months to really feel like I’d hit my stride and started saving money.
- You will need to shop at multiple stores. I know, I know it seems like a waste of time. I always thought it was! However, I used to shop two stores every two weeks and buy all I needed for those two weeks (ie.,full carts!). It would take me a whole afternoon of shopping. Now I shop at two-three stores per week, but I only buy fewer items at each store. So I’m really not spending much more time shopping than I was before.
- Make your grocery list based on what’s on sale and what you have coupons for. I think even if I had made the change of just buying what’s on sale (without coupons), I would have saved money.
- In our town, generally Walmart matches (and usually beats by a couple of cents) the sale prices in our Tops Markets weekly ad. You can use this to your advantage when you’re not earning Tops gas points by still using the Tops ad to determine what’s on sale and what you’re going to buy – then simply go shopping at Walmart. It’s simple to get the price matched – just show the cashier the competitor’s ad and she can change the price at the register.
- Definitely take advantage of Tops gas points. You CAN fill up two vehicles in one transaction to get up to the 30 gallon limit (even though the sticker on the gas pump says you can’t.) Trust me, I asked the manager at Tops.
- I generally don’t buy things unless I have a coupon (with the exception of a few items that don’t keep well – like milk, butter, eggs, etc.). If it’s not a necessity, it doesn’t get bought unless I have a coupon. If it is a necessity, I make sure I buy it at the store with the lowest price.
- Set up a spot in your house for storage of items you stock up on. I have a cabinet in my basement just for this purpose and I love it. When an item is at it’s lowest price, and you’ve got coupons – bingo! Stock up!
- Never buy a pillsbury refrigerated dough item without a coupon!!! There are ALWAYS coupons available for these!! 🙂
- I always thought that buying in bulk at BJs was the cheapest option. But it’s not necessarily true, especially compared to buying something on sale at Tops with either stacked or doubled coupons. Take your calculator with you to check! The only ways I’ve gotten better deals at BJs is this – stack a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon, AND you can use a manufacturer coupon for each item in the package if they have individual bar codes.
- The Dollar Tree has Sunday papers for $1, but you have to get there at 9 am when they open or they’ll sell out!
- Always, always, always check your paper for the coupon inserts before you buy. At the beginning, twice I bought papers and didn’t realize until I got home that the inserts had been removed before I bought them. Boo.
- Start couponing with a goal of how much you’d LIKE to spend weekly on groceries. It is tempting at the beginning to buy things you think are a good deal and fill your pantry… and overspend your “budget”. Most likely you’ll find the item at an even lower price a few weeks later! (this happened to me several times at the beginning). To combat this, stick to your budget and bide your time as you get to know what are REALLY the lowest prices. I recommend keeping a price list, where you list the date/store/lowest price you’ve seen on items you buy regularly. This way you can be sure you’re getting the item at the lowest price.
- Here are some links to websites I like for coupon matchups (especially for you local readers!):
Tricia’s Frugal Finds – great Tops matchups and local savings info
Coupons for Your Family – I like the coupon database here!
For The Mommas – I use this site for CVS matchups
Cuckoo for Coupon Deals – great K-mart coupon matchups
A couple of these website offer great basic info on couponing – so also take advantage of it!
Have fun couponing! Let me know if you have any specific questions. I am definitely not an expert, but I might have wondered the same thing and tracked down an answer already!