It seems like the products bought on a regular basis get more expensive every day. Luckily, there are ways to save money on your everyday purchases. One of the most effective strategies is couponing. Couponing is a great way to maximize your budget and get the most bang for your buck. With just a bit of effort, you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year on food, clothing and more.
What is couponing?
Couponing involves collecting a variety of vouchers called coupons that help you save money on products you want to buy. You present the voucher or a coupon for the product to the cashier upon checking out. The type of discount varies widely, from 50 cents on a product to buy-one get-one (BOGO), a deal where you get two products for the price of one. Always read the fine print on the coupon carefully to avoid any issues at checkout.
Coupons can be found for both online and in-store purchases. Often you’ll find that a store, especially a clothing store, offers the same deal online as in store, but the inventory of products differs.
Couponing changes how you buy products:
- Instead of buying things when you need them, you’ll stock up ahead of time to take advantage of sales. Rather than buying shampoo when you run out, you’ll buy it based on the coupons you got in the mail or online that week.
- Timing is everything. You have to be patient to get the best deals. Inevitably, there will be products you simply need and can’t get with a coupon. The goal is that once you get into the swing of things, you’ll run into this situation much less often. The main thing you must be willing to spend isn’t money, but time.
- It takes time to search for coupons, print them out or cut them and buy the products yourself. Gone are the days of ordering all your groceries via Instacart or some other delivery service. If your goal is to save, you need to take matters into your own hands.
- The final thing you need to give up is brand loyalty. You’ll never save if you’re always buying the same brand, because most brands only release coupons periodically. To coupon effectively, you’ll need to try new brands.
Where to Find Coupons
First, you need a computer and a printer for printing coupons. You may want to store them in a plastic binder with dividers or in folders.
Next, you need time and patience. Set aside an hour or two per week for couponing. Newspapers and mailers are a great source for getting coupons as well. Chances are you’re already receiving these and simply throwing them away when you could be making use of them. If you aren’t receiving any coupons, sign up for a few local newspapers.
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You can also find coupons online on websites like Coupons.com, RetailMeNot, Groupon and Honey. Cashback websites like Swagbucks and Ebates help you accumulate rewards points when you make purchases online. These points can often be redeemed for store gift cards.
Manufacturer and store websites often have coupons as well if you sign up for their email newsletters. It’s good to set aside an email address that’s only for coupons so your main inbox doesn’t fill up with offers.
There are plenty of bloggers that post coupons on a daily basis as well. Grocery stores often have coupon flyers or digital coupons on their websites. Coupons are everywhere! You just have to look out for them.
How to Use Coupons
When you shop for groceries, bring your coupon binder and see if any of them match items you need or will need in the future. The idea is to stock up on items you would normally buy. What you don’t want to do is suddenly start buying tons of new items simply because there’s a discount available. That defeats the purpose of wanting to save money through couponing.
Be willing to try new brands of your necessary items, like toothpaste and toilet paper. Once you have items in your cart, whether in store or digital, apply your coupons by handing them to the cashier or entering a discount code online before you pay. You should see the price of your items go down before you pay for your items.
Occasionally, you may find yourself in an “overage” scenario. Basically, an overage is when the value of your coupon exceeds the price of an item. This means that the store owes you money, which it will give in cash or as a discount for your larger purchases. Consider the following:
- Combine a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon together, or use a coupon on an item that’s on sale or clearance.
- Use Catalina coupons that make offers like, “Save $5 off your next purchase.” If your purchase is only $3, that means you get $2 back.
- Some stores will not pay an overage in cash. They’ll often ask you to pick an item that meets the amount of the overage, so keep that in mind.
- Some stores also don’t allow you to use two coupons simultaneously. They also may not carry the product you have a coupon for, either because it’s sold out or they simply don’t order it. You may want to call ahead and make sure that item is in stock.
Pros and Cons of Couponing
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to couponing.
- You’ll save significant amounts of money.
- You’re always stocked up on your necessities.
- How much you save depends largely on timing and whether you’re willing or able to buy certain items before you need them.
- You’ll eventually have a very good idea of what things cost and whether or not you’re getting a good deal.
- Couponing in bulk may sometimes be unrealistic for those on the tightest of budgets.
- Those who are on a tight schedule may also not have the time to cut coupons and head to the store every week.
- It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying items you don’t need.
Other Ways to Save Money
There are quite a few tips and tricks to save money without coupons:
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach. You’ll be more likely to buy snacks and food items you don’t normally buy. Plan ahead with a list of things you need and stick to it or allow yourself only one or two indulgent purchases.
- Plan your meals for the week before you shop. This leads to much less wasted food, which means more money in your pocket. You’ll also want to only shop once a week, as you’re more likely to spend more if you stop at the store every day. Plus, that gives you extra time to collect your weekly coupons.
- Make use of your freezer by freezing items that could expire if they stay in the fridge. If you stock up on meat that’s on sale, for instance, it can last a few months in the freezer.
- Avoid buying things like coffee and snacks on the run, as single-packaged items are often more expensive.
- Shop around. Even if you have a coupon, different stores may have different prices. Don’t be afraid to drive to a new part of town where the prices may be better.
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