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Grocery coupons can save you money, but what if I told you they could be saving you even more money? You know about coupons and I am sure if you are a reader of Super Saving Tips, you know I use them unabashedly! But there are a few little twists, coupon tricks if you will, on how to get the absolute most from your coupons and avoid some of the frustrations and missed opportunities to save your hard-earned money when you use them.
Here are some of my favorite coupon tricks:
Don’t use your coupons right away
That’s right, you heard me correctly! My experience shows that clipping coupons from your Sunday newspaper or magazines and shopping with them the same week they appear can be a mistake. Stores know weeks ahead of time what product coupons are coming out in the inserts and ads, and they may leave the corresponding products at higher prices intentionally and not on sale just to get you to buy at regular prices.
To get the most value out of your coupons, hold on to them until your supermarket drops to its sale prices. The lowest sale prices at supermarkets and drugstores occur in cycles like once every other week or every 3-4 weeks. You can discover these cycles by monitoring the price of some of you favorite items for a few weeks until you see the established pattern. If you have saved the coupons, then those weeks are the ideal time to stock up on any sale items.
Check unit prices, especially when you use a coupon
It’s pretty common that when you use a coupon on an item, the unit price might be better on a “smaller” size than a bigger size, especially when it is on sale.
For example, a bottle of “X brand” laundry detergent in large size may be regularly priced at $7.99 for 64 oz. That’s 12.5 cents per oz. and it may not be on sale this week. Then you see a 40 oz. bottle of that brand on the shelf at $5.89 regularly. That’s 14.6 cents per ounce (about 17% more expensive). If you have a coupon for $1.00 off any size, and the smaller bottle is on sale that week for a reduced price of $4.99, with the coupon applied to the smaller bottle it brings the cost down to just 10.0 cents per ounce. Applying that same coupon to the larger bottle only brings the price down to 11.0 cents per ounce. You now save an extra 10% per ounce!
Maximize your coupons
Another way to get the most out of coupons is to use multiple coupons for multiple items on the same trip. Many people are confused by the wording “one per purchase”, thinking that they can only use one coupon on each visit to the store. What it really means is that they can only use one coupon for each item that they are buying. If you buy five packs of gum you can use one coupon on each pack for a total of five coupons, for example.
You also need to make sure you understand the terms of the offer listed on the coupon. Be careful to read the fine print on the coupon. Sometimes one coupon is good for two items or more. This means you won’t save a penny until you buy two or three items listed on the coupon—and some might be for products that you don’t even need or want.
Your time is worth money too
If you spend more than an hour browsing the store, time is wasted and it can even make it impossible to stay within your budget. It pays to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible. For most people, the more time spent shopping, the more money spent as well. Even when you shop with a list, taking extra time to explore the store from aisle to aisle can result in impulse buys.
You should also limit the number of stores you visit for your grocery run, and you should set a time limit for each store to avoid milling through the aisles.
Taking care of your coupons
The easiest method to getting the best deals with your coupons is to have a library saved up. That way, if an item goes on sale weeks after the insert is delivered, you’ll still have the coupons (and you only clip the ones you actually need!).
Organize them with an accordion file of some sort. It may not be the prettiest way like the binder method some use, but it’s super time efficient! Just make sure you date your inserts before filing them.
Keep a category index so you know exactly how you are filing, such as canned fruits or dairy products as headers. Don’t cut every coupon and file, just cut just the coupons you use and need and never waste time cutting coupons you won’t ever use! Develop a filing system.
Many shoppers organize their coupons by the grocery style category—dairy, frozen foods, deli, etc.—but it’s not the only way to go. Find a filing system that works for you—it can be by aisle, by expiration, etc. but put one that works for you into action
File coupons the same day you get them
Okay, so you may not always have time to file your coupons right away, but try to file them as soon as you can. This will prevent them from getting lost, and save you the hassle of having to sort through a big mess of coupons all at once.
Purge them regularly. Expired coupons won’t save you any money, so don’t let those hog space in your coupon file. Set a schedule for purging expired coupons, and stick to it.
Use digital coupons
Digital coupons can be clipped online and saved to your loyalty card. If you want to use them, check to see if your grocery store allows you to print a list of all of your coupons from their website. This will make it easier to shop.
In addition to digital coupons, you can get digital rebates with apps like Ibotta. Lining up a coupon with a rebate means extra savings.
Coupons combined with sales are the best way to really save you money at the supermarket. Don’t ever think that it’s too much trouble or a “waste of time” because it is anything but that.
There are numerous ways that coupons can be linked together for double plays and even triple plays that can explode your savings. Most stores today offer “double savings” on coupons up to 99 cents and some even do triple savings promotions occasionally. You don’t have to be a practitioner of “extreme” couponing to reap some significant benefits. Saving money on your basic food bill is simply a smart thing to help your budget reach the goal you set!
Do you use coupons when you shop? How much do you save? How do you organize your coupon stash? What’s the most you have saved on a grocery shopping trip using your coupons? Got any good coupon tricks of your own?