For the past few months, I've been clipping coupons and locating various coupons on the web. At first, I was a little skeptical - how much money could I really save? After a few months, I have a pretty good idea. Between $65 and $100 per week, reducing our grocery bill significantly.
I decided to share my adventures in couponing in case anyone else is looking to start or improve their coupon skills.
Where to get coupons?
-Currently, I try to buy 2 local newspapers each week at Walgreens. It costs $3 per week. Our local paper, the News and Observer, offers the option of subscribing to the Sunday paper and paying an extra $1 per week for double coupons...but it costs me less just to buy the paper at Walgreens.
-I regularly check websites like smartsource.com, redplum.com, and coupons.com. Something to keep in mind...if you find a coupon you like, visit the site again...you may be able to print the coupon one or two more times :-)
-Sign up for emails, newletters, etc. for the products you use ( Proctor and Gamble), Betty Crocker, etc). I created a gmail account just for these emails - otherwise, I'd have a tough time sifting through them all.
-Participate in rewards or savings programs at your local grocery store - VIC, MVP, etc. It also helps to receive the weekly flyers through email too!
How do I keep up with everything?
I know a lot of people spend hours trying to figure out how to save the most money. I'm not one of those people. Wish I were...because I'd save even more, but I'm not. Others subscribe to websites and programs that do all the work for them...but this costs money and I'm just not willing to go that far. For me, organization and meal planning is key.
-Organize: I have a 1.5" 3-ring binder, an envelope (for the coupons I'm using this time), notebook dividers and baseball card holders. By grouping your coupons by product category, it's much easier to locate them quickly. (dairy, frozen, meat, pet, etc) The baseball card holders allow you to store each coupon in a separate place - giving you easy access and the ability to see multiple coupons at the same time. Example - when I get to the canned food aisle, I turn to the canned section and I can see all of my coupons for that area of the store.
-Know store policies: Familiarize yourself with the coupon policies in the stores you frequent. For example, Harris Teeter doubles up to 20 coupons of $0.99 and less everyday. This week is Triple Coupons...up to 20 for $0.99 and less. We went Friday and Saturday to use 40 coupons. I have another 10 or so that we'll use today or tomorrow before triples ends. Had I not known that...I would have lost a lot of money.
-Plan: planning meals can make a huge difference. We spend a lot less if we plan. Even less if we plan according to the sale items during a given week. Right now, I've planned our meals through May 22. It will require another small trip to the store for produce, milk and bread, but not much else.
Don't be fooled
-Just because you have a coupon that will be doubled, don't be fooled into buying everything at a double coupon store (Harris Teeter, Lowe's Foods, etc). Shop smart - if the item costs $2.99 at Harris Teeter and $2.39 at Wal-Mart, it would still be cheaper to buy the item at Wal-Mart if you have a coupon worth less than $0.60. A coupon for $0.61 or more would be cheaper at Harris Teeter.
-Store Brands can also save you a lot of money. In many cases, the store brand is just as good, if not better than the name brand. Sometimes, using coupons will bring the name brand below the store brand price. Other times, it won't. That's when I will buy the store brand and save my coupon for another visit.
You're probably wondering how much time I spend on couponing each week. Between 1 and 2 hours. That includes all the coupon hunting, coupon clipping and coupon sorting/filing. I do cheat a little - I let Abby cut out some of the coupons :-)