Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Couponing Tips: Part One

A few months ago I took a good, hard look at what I was spending at the grocery store and I was horrified.  Groceries and home essentials (diapers, cleaning supplies etc…) had become one of our very biggest bills.  Yikes.   I decided to take action in the form of coupons and it has made a huge impact in my pocket book (savings of well over $1000 plus a stash of non-perishables totaling nearly $500 in just 3 months).  Here are my top 5 tips for couponing…

1.  Get Your Coupons.  Your Sunday paper has the biggest stash of coupons so be sure you are picking at least one copy up each week.  I actually buy 2 papers (my savings more than covers the price) and I have family members save me their extras.  You can also find free printable coupons in my Coupons & Freebies section.

2.  Make a Plan.  This was a hard one for me.  I think we all get into the habit of just going to the store and throwing things in the cart but that is when the totals really start getting out of control.  Before you hit the stores check out the sales flyers and look at your coupons as you make your list.  I try and always buy products that are on sale AND have a coupon.  When I have a really great deal I stock up on those items and stash the extras for when I run out.  There are some wonderful sites that can help you with your “coupon match-ups” (lists of sale items by store matched with available coupons) and I highly recommend We Use Coupons.  You should also find a local deal blogger to follow because they are generally right on top of the deals around town.  I do this on my site as much as I can (shameless plug!)  and I also love Money Saving Maine-iac for local Maine deals.

3.  Get Organized.  You will not use your coupons if they floating around on the floor of your car or mangled at the bottom of your purse (trust me I know this from experience!).  I use a check organizer that I picked up from Staples for $6. It has 20 different slots which I label by section of the store (dairy, snacks, beauty etc...) and I put my clipped coupons in the appropriate slot.  I use the front pocket for my shopping list and the coupons I am planning on using for my current shopping trip. For my extra sales from the Sunday paper I use a different system which I will detail more in my next couponing installment.

4.  Shop outside the box.  Places like Staples and Home Depot take coupons too.  I recently purchased paper towels for $.20 at Home Depot and scored some free sandwich bags from Staples using my coupons.  When you are out and about bring those coupons with you…you never know! 

5.  Don’t go (too) bananas.  I am not out to buy 672 bottles of aspirin just because it is free (although I would imagine the adrenaline rush would be quite something at the checkout line!).  I am realistic.  My family needs milk and produce and those essentials are almost never free.  I do my best to spend as little as possible on the other items like snacks and cleaning items so my overall bill shows a savings of at least 50%.  I am almost always able to do this by shopping smarter and you can do it too.  If you do find yourself in flurry of overbuying because something is free (I recently did this with salad dressing!) your local food pantry will be more than happy to take the extras off your hands and you can feel even better about your savings.

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