Couponing – Get More for Your Money

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A pair of scissors laying on top of coupons and money. (note: coupons were created by photographer with own photographs)

By: Sundra Hilsinger, Michigan First Member Service Representative

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Unfortunately, grocery shopping can take a huge chunk out of your budget. But it doesn’t have to. Take the show Extreme Couponing, it’s amazing the amount of goods that can be purchased for next to nothing. Even though shopping hauls like that aren’t exactly feasible for the average consumer, we can use some of their extreme coupon skills to stretch our grocery budget. I’ve tried it, and here are some tips that you need to know:

Where to Find Coupons:

There are plenty of ways to acquire coupons. Here are a few of the best ways:

  • In the Mail: Mail adverts are usually mailed along with local stores weekly sales papers. Keep an eye out for leaflets such as RedPlum where you can find a variety of coupons.
  • The Sunday Paper: If you don’t subscribe yourself, ask your friends and family if they are willing to part with the coupons found in theirs. If you’re feeling ambitious you can go around to local gas stations and convenience stores to see if they will give you any of their unsold papers at the end of the night (most places throw them out after midnight).
  • Online: Printing coupons is great because you can print only what you need. Be sure to read the fine print. Many printable coupons have a lot exclusivity attached to them.

Couponing Dos:  

  • Search for Sales: You double your savings by using a coupon on an item that’s already on sale. This is actually when you start to save money. Simply using a coupon on a name brand item does not save much money. In fact you can probably purchase the generic version of the same item for less than what you would when just using a coupon. This is why it’s important to do the math. Don’t be afraid to whip out a calculator and compare prices on several items if you want to get the best deal.
  • Stack those Coupons: Triple your savings by using a manufacture coupon on top of a store coupon for an item that’s already on sale. This is why the Sunday Paper is so highly regarded; it’s where you find the most coupons that are store specific.
  • Double the Coupon: Some stores even offer to double the amount of your coupon (usually under a dollar). Why not take a $.50 off coupon and turn it into a $1.00? All those savings add up!
  • Become Familiar with One Store: When you’re just getting started it is better to start your journey at only one store. Target and Kroger are great choices for beginners. Become familiar with their coupon policy just to get a feel for how to maximize your savings. Check out Kroger’s here.
  • Stock up on Essentials: There are some items you absolutely have to have, so you might as well get it at the lowest price. One thing you can almost never have enough of is toilet paper. If one week you’re down to your last roll, you might pay $10 for a package. A few weeks later you may see that there is now a sale and you can get the same package for $3. Why not buy three? You’ll get triple the amount as before and still save $1.

Couponing Don’ts:

  • Purchase Based on Price: If you hate tuna but realize you can buy twelve cans for a dollar doesn’t mean you should. Be realistic with what you purchase and make good decisions for your budget. Once you get the hang of couponing you will start to recognize when you’re getting a good deal.
  • Throw your Savings Away: If you want to apply the same principle as above to food items, make sure you properly store the items or plan your meals accordingly to avoid spoilage and wasted money.
  • Assume You’re Getting a Good Deal: When you’re first starting, it’s important to pay attention to reoccurring sales. Don’t let slogans like “stock up now” or “get yours before it’s gone” make you think you should buy something that doesn’t really fit in your budget. Ask yourself “Do I need this?” and “Can I get this cheaper somewhere else/ some other time?”

Couponing may seem like a lot of work, but you’re going to have to spend money on groceries and essentials anyway, you might as well make your dollar stretch! Trust me, it’s just like learning to do anything. Start small and before you know it you’ll be an expert. What’s better? You’ll be an expert with some extra cash to spend.

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