Okay coupon newbies, this post is for y'all... your Coupon 101 online tutorial if you will. Here are the basics of saving big.
1. Combine store sales with coupons. This is the way to get free products, and also the way to save the most money on your weekly grocery bill. I usually only get one newspaper on Sunday mornings (The Free Press) and those coupons are plenty. There are some weeks that I will buy more than one because of a really good coupon, (Taylortown Preview shows you the coupons that will be coming out the following week) but I can usually find additional coupons at The Coupon Master if there's something I need a lot of. I also grab coupons in stores (on tearpads near products or out of those coupon dispensers- called "blinkies") and save them for later when an item goes on sale.
2. Stock up on the deals. When something you normally use goes rock bottom, buy as much as you can to keep your pantry or freezer stocked so that you won't have to pay full price when you need it. At first it can be awkward to transition from mostly "need shopping" to "stockpiling" but a well-stocked "home store" will save you lots of money and time and ensure that you always have the ingredients you need right at your fingertips with no last minute trips to the store.
3. Don't buy crap you don't need and won't use. Seriously. Chasing deals for the sake of chasing deals is a waste of time and money. Make the sales work for you and your family's needs but don't buy 57 cans of 4-cent dog food if you don't have a dog... unless you plan to donate it. The same can be said of food that you deem to be unhealthy. I don't care if someone is paying me to take trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup this week... I won't. Maybe you won't take free broccoli or brussels sprouts; just don't compromise your own personal standards for the sake of a dealio.
4. Don't be brand loyal. Experiment with different brands and different products. None of us like to think we are loyal to certain companies simply because of advertising but you'd be surprised how many times you reach for the Charmin just because you are used to doing it. Branch out and try the Cottonelle. (Especially when it's free!)
5. Buy the smallest size that the sale/coupon allows. This will lower your out-of-pocket cost.
6. Use the internet. Sites like Hot Coupon World and Coupon Mom will help you find the best deals in your area. Coupon Mom lists store sales and coupon match-ups so you know exactly how much you're saving.
7. Set a weekly budget and really try to stick with it. Mine is currently $80 a week and that includes the $23 box of organic produce we have delivered. Most weeks I'm pretty dead on, and it's always a fun challenge.
8. Plan your shopping trips. This (along with #7) will really eliminate excess spending and impulse buys.
9. Leave a little room in your budget for unadvertised deals. Check for clearance and closeout items. I bring my coupons with me to the store just in case I find a deal that's too good to pass up.
10. Organize your coupons. I use a 3-ring binder with 9-pocket pages (like you used to use for Garbage Pail Kids. Oh, you know you had 'em). I have it alphabetized by category (Baby, Beverages, Breakfast, Condiments, etc.) and I have a tab for each section. Other people have filing boxes and some don't clip their coupons at all until they need them; they save the inserts and write the date on the front. I like to bring mine with me when I shop so the binder works best for me personally. Just find a system that works for your needs and stay on top of it! It's no fun having three weeks worth of coupons to cut and file (don't ask me how I know).
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