Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday - Using Coupons and Clearing Up Coupon Confusion



I grew up with a mom who used coupons, but she never explained it to me nor do I think she ever used coupons in the same manner as I do.  We really didn't talk about money or saving money when I was growing up, something I have come to deeply regret and wish my parents would have done with me.  It is also the reason that I do talk seriously with my kids about money, being good stewards, and using money wisely but that's not really the point I was trying to make.  The point I was trying to make is that I grew up around coupons, so for me they did not hold the stigma of something that was lower class or that was only for junk items so it was suprising to me as an adult when I ran across these stigmas.  So before I explain how I use coupons I want to address a few questions/concerns that I have found many people who do not use coupons have.

1.  The coupons I see are never for items I use or are usually for processed foods that I don't buy.

While there are coupons for convenience foods there are also coupons for toilet paper, soap, shampoo, deodorant, baking products (flour, spices, baking soda, baking powder, etc.), juice, and frozen vegetables.  It is true that sometimes you have to be flexible on brands and can't always be brand loyal when using coupons.

2.  What does it mean to double or triple coupons?

When a store doubles or triples a coupon it means that they will multiply the face value of the coupon.  Which means a $0.35 coupon is worth $0.70 or a $0.50 coupon is worth $1.  However, most stores that double coupons will only do this for coupons up to $0.50 in value.  If a store doubles coupons it is typically listed in their flyer in the fine print but you can always check with your local stores to see what their coupon policy is.  In my area both Kroger and Meijer double coupons everyday but some stores only double coupons on certain days.  We do not have any stores that double coupons. 

3.  My paper doesn't have coupons.  Can I get these elsewhere?

Many people have excellent luck with coupons printed off the internet.  I personally do not as I have found several stores in my area do not accept internet coupons.  You can also purchase coupons from the inserts online.  Ebay, Lori Has 3 Kids, and The Coupon Clippers, are just a few of the places where you can buy coupons.

Okay, now to how I use coupons. 

Sundays are very lazy days around our house.  We get up early in the morning, go out to eat for lunch, then we all come home and get back into our pajamas for lounging around the house (this is the only day we do this.)  So I take advantage of the day by spending it planning my shopping trips and menu plan.

Typically grocery stores will run through their sales cycles every twelve weeks with prices items reaching their all time low at least once during the cycle.  The trick is to match that low price with coupons to get items for a rock bottom price and to purchase enough of that item to hold you over until the next sales cycle. 

For example Crest Toothpaste will go on sale for $1.  You can typically find coupons for Crest anywhere from $0.35 to $0.50.  Meaning you can purchase Crest for $0.50 to $0.65 a tube.  If your store doubles coupons you can get it for free or around $0.35 a tube. 

To maximize savings you really need to buy items when they are at their lowest price whether you need it at that point or not.  You may not need toothpaste this week but more than likely in two weeks when it is not on sale you will need it.  The trick to saving the most with couponing is to stock up when items are on sale so that you never have to pay full price for something when you do need it.

On Sundays I sit down with the grocery store ads, some paper, and a pen.  I go through each ad and list on the paper the items that are on sale that I think are low prices.  I usually skip a line or two between each item so that I can come back and enter in the coupons that I have. 

Then I go through my coupons to see what I have that matches up to each stores ads.  As I find a coupon that matches up I will write it down on the paper and put the coupon in an envelope for that paticular store (each store has it's own envelope).  If something is on sale but I don't have a coupon for it or don't necessarily need it I will just mark it off my list.

I do not have an additional grocery list for the most part.  I plan my meals around the items that I already have in my pantry or the sale items that I plan to purchase that week.  By stocking up when items are on sale I always have a well stocked pantry.  It does take a while to build up a stockpile but once you have that stockpile you are able to dramatically cut your grocery bill down.

If you are completely confused by my methods or still have no idea what I am talking about I suggest checking out The Grocery Game.  When I first started couponing this was a lifesaver for me, and taught me the basics of what I needed to know to use coupons wisely.  A great thing about The Grocery Game is that she offers a free four week trial for you to try out the website.  If you do the free trial be sure to sign up for all of the stores in your area during the trial.  

I really hope that my ramblings have helped you more than they have confused you!  If I have not been clear about something or you have a question about something just let me know!

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