I admit it, coupons have never been my thing.
Occasionally, I would half-heartedly wade through the Sunday paper and clip out a few coupons for products we sometimes use. But to me, the whole thing seemed like a lot of
work for very little benefit.
And then there’s the embarrassment of pulling out my coupons at the checkout line, inconveniencing the cashier and causing shoppers behind me to roll their eyes.
What’s next, a coin purse?
Well, that was all before our stagnant economy forced us to reconsider every aspect of our spending. Coupons are now a necessity: deal with it.
Fortunately, using coupons is a lot easier than I thought. It turns out there’s a whole community of people in the same boat, so there are sophisticated resources available to share information about what’s on sale where, and how to maximize the use of coupons and other discounts.
Tap into some of these resources you can easily slash your monthly food bill with very little effort.
For example, instead of going through Sunday’s coupons page by page every week, just write the date on the front page of the coupon packet and throw it in a pile. You can save these up week after week.
Then, when it’s time to shop, go to a website that catalogues every one of these coupons – http://couponmom.com or http://hotcouponworld.com, for starters – and search for the items you already are planning to buy. These free sites tell you the dates these coupons appeared and when they expired. Go to that date’s packet and clip only the coupons you need.
These cataloguing sites also list any online coupons currently available, either from
individual stores or directly from manufacturers.
Instead of searching through store sale pages (nine came in our mail Monday), try visiting a site that already has done the comparison shopping for you, such as http://www.facebook.com/ChicagoFrugalista or http://moneysavingmom.com/. There’s also forums for users to share money-saving tips and special offers they have
Another great tip is to not throw away those printed coupons some stores give you with your receipt after you check out. These are called Catalina deals and are usually future discounts for products you just bought – so you’ll likely be buying them again soon. Other times, they are for cash or percentage discounts on future purchases – such as $10 off your next purchase of $40 or more.
Here’s some other great coupon tips I found:
- Use coupons only if the item already is on sale. Grocery stores typically put items on sale once every six weeks. Wait long enough, and you’ll be able to substantially increase your savings.
- Don’t worry if coupons expire. There will always be more coupons.
- Look for stores that offer double coupons, either every day or on a particular day of the week.
- Obviously, don’t buy something just because you have a coupon for it. An exception would be if the coupon makes the product free, such as when a double coupon combined with a sale price brings the cost to at or below $0.00. This actually happens.
- Don’t throw out your junk mail anymore, you can’t afford it. Instead, mine it for treasures. Some of those offers you won’t find anywhere else.
- To minimize embarrassment, find the right checkout line. Younger, less experience male cashiers typically will check you out quickest and with minimal fuss. Older, female, veteran cashiers hate coupons and are more likely to slow you down, according to one coupon website.
- Sign up online for free sites such as Living Social, Groupon, or CouponMob. Sure, you’ll get a lot of junk emails, but occasionally there will be steep discounts on products or services you really use.
- Planning to eat at a restaurant? Go to Coupons.com, input your zip code under “Restaurant Deals” and up pops dozens of local places offering deep discounts on gift certificates (such as $20 for a $50 gift certificate at Leona’s in Oak Lawn, one of our favorites). There’s usually a minimum purchase, but if you’re planning on dining there anyway, that’s free money.
Let’s face facts: Times are tough right now. We can no longer afford the luxury of ignoring the discounts offered to us every day. Fortunately, there’s an entire subculture out there anxious to share information to make using these tools simpler.
Now, where’s my coin purse?