Save With Coupons

Coupons are issued by the manufacturer in the hopes that they will encourage us to buy a product and we will then love it so much that we will ever after pay full price for it. Regardless of this trickery they CAN save you a lot especially if the supermarkets in your area offer double or triple coupons! Never think it's not worth your time to cut them out...clip all coupons except on products you never use (pet foods if you don't have a pet, diapers if you don't have a baby, etc). It only takes a few minutes and when you add up what you've saved you'll find that it's a pretty good hourly wage.

Once you cut out the coupons it's important to have some sort of filing systen to keep track of them and make them easy to find when you need them. A recipe box works well with categories written on the dividers. You can also use envelopes and keep them in a shoe box with the categories written on the outside of each envelope. Some of my categories are: baking stuff, bread and cereal, health and beauty, paper products, cleaning products, meats and fish, veggies, etc. It's a good idea to arrange these categories alphabetically (but maybe that's just the former librarian in me talking and another arrangement would work just as well for you!) and every week after you clip coupons sort them. This doesn't take very long...maybe 1/2 hour. You also have to periodically go through the box and throw out the ones that have expired. I do this about once every two months.

Matching coupons with what's on sale will often enable you to get some items for only a few cents or even for free. By comparing the prices in the store flyers with the coupons in your box you can save quite a bit every week. We recently purchased Rice-a-Roni for only 17 cents a box. Unfortunately for the Rice-a-Roni people this will NOT encourage me to buy the stuff for $1.27 at a later date because for those times it's not on sale I have a great "San Francisco Rice" Recipe. We have also "purchased" many bottles of salad dressing for better than free (this is when the tripled coupon value comes out to MORE than the sale price). Coupons are also a great way to try new products because if you don't like them at least they didn't cost much.

It's really important to use coupons for those items to which you have "brand loyalty". For the most part I will buy whatever brand I get the lowest price on but there are a few things (Dawn dishwashing liquid is one of them) that I simply must have! My Mom's downfall is Hellmann's Mayonaisse (aka Best Foods in the west) and my aunt is partial to Tide detergent. So if you're going to pay for the brand name anyway you might just as well get the 40 cents off...much better than full price!

Trading coupons with your friends is a good way to get extras. My aunt, my mom and I trade ours around every week. We all use different products so it works out really well for us. You also may want to check with the store where you buy your Sunday paper...they might let you have the extra coupon sections from the papers after they've sold all they're going to sell.

I have recently discovered that you can frequently get substantial coupons on the internet. Check the websites of your favorite products to see if they are giving any good ones! Also, Coolsavings.com has printable coupons.

This tip from David Harvey might get you some good coupons: Here's a tip for all of you who have too much free time on your hands...buy a product (ESPECIALLY NEW ONES) Then save the package, upc, and/or receipt and write the company to say how pleased or displeased you are with it. They will usually send a free product coupon or a cents off one for your input.

Heather Johnson says: Don't forget to check in the store for coupons. Not only do the little red machines have coupons, but now I'm finding more and more coupons in little tiny boxes next to, under and I've even found a box WAY above the dairy section for some soy milk. Also displays, I found some GREAT kraft coupons that you wouldn't have known were coupons until you checked the back. (it looked like a typical -win this car- deal) I have also found rebate forms as well in the grocery aisle. Keep your eyes open while you shop and you might come away with more coupons and forms that get you free or nearly free items"

From Misty Willis in Georgia: Using a lot of coupons requires a great organizing system to save time rummaging for that certain coupon. I bought a check organizer at Wal-Mart for $5.00. It comes with little labels to mark each tab. I don't alphabetize each section. I label it according to my favorite grocery stores aisles (dry goods, canned goods, frozen foods, dairy, etc.) So even if I'm in another store I can still find the coupon I need just by looking in the proper category. I carry my coupons with me everywhere, even on vacation or visiting relatives. When we visit my husband's grandmother, we always buy groceries while we're there, and we buy extra things for her because she is on a fixed income. She supplies us with her list of stock up items, and she tends to buy a lot of "convenience" items because she lives alone. With my coupons, I managed to save almost $40.00 during our last visit! I estimate that I spend about two extra hours a week clipping and organizing, plus a little extra time in the store. But, I save on average between $15.00-$20.00 per week using coupons! If you think you don't have time to clip coupons, how much tv do you watch? It's easy to clip while watching your favorite shows. Don't have time to file them in your organizer? Clip and put in the front of your organizer, file when you're waiting somewhere. I once filed all my coupons while in my doctors waiting room. Also, take advantage of promotional contests or games your grocery store may be doing. One of my stores runs a bingo type game twice a year. Some of the game pieces have coupons in them, some for free products. I save the coupons (usually store brands) until close to the end of the game. Then I redeem them all at once. Last time I did this, I got $90.00 worth of groceries and nonfood items for $45.00!

The main thing to remember when couponing is not to buy something you know you'll never use just because it's got a 75 cent coupon. If everybody in the family hates butterscotch pudding it'll just sit moldering away in your cupboard and you'll have wasted the money (however little) you paid for it. The exception to this rule is that you should get the item if it is free and donate it to your local food pantry.