I used to be an extreme couponer. Huge basement stockpile and all. I spent my free time cutting tons of coupons every week, constantly searching for the best deals, and shopping all the time so I’d never miss a bargain. I saved a ton of money, but it also took up a LOT of my time and energy. That’s time and energy I now find better spent playing with Zachary and doing family activities.
Another downside, besides the time and energy it took, was that I also bought a lot of unnecessary things. This caused me to inevitably spend more than I needed to in many situations, even if it was cheap. I just couldn’t pass up a great deal. Most of those items ended up being donated or given to family. Some of it even expired and was thrown out.
Ultimately, this made me realize that extreme couponing isn’t for everyone. I love the deal and money saving aspect, and never having to wonder if we were out of something, but it isn’t worth the energy to me. Since I still want to be able to stretch my budget and save as much as I can, I still coupon, just not as intensely. I went from being an extreme couponer to using a simple coupon strategy.
A simple coupon strategy makes more sense for a mom who values time with her family as well as saving money.
If extreme couponing sounds exhausting to you, you’re absolutely right. It can be. Couponing can be a horrible, time-wasting experience. I can’t tell you the number of hours I spent thinking about coupons, looking for coupons, and then matching coupons with deals.
The idea of “extreme” couponing turns many people off from using coupons altogether. This is really unfortunate because couponing can be a great way to save money on everyday purchases. You just don’t want to get burnt out on all of the work it takes to be extreme about it.
The key is learning to coupon correctly so that you can be efficient with your time and still get great deals to save your family money. You can save both time and money by using coupons. It doesn’t have to take such a toll on you!
You just need a to use a simple coupon strategy like I do, rather than going extreme. And that’s exactly what I’m going to help you learn to do. Let’s go over you what you need to know and what to look for so you can maximize your savings while minimizing the time and effort.
Not all coupons are created equal.
When I was extreme couponing, I cannot tell you how many people asked if it was really worth it. They couldn’t believe that cutting coupons at all could save them enough money to be worth it. Let me tell you, it absolutely can save you money! You just have to know what to look for.
The first step toward adopting a simple coupon strategy is to realize that all coupons are not created equal. If you’ve never looked at coupons before, start. Just familiarize yourself with them. After a few weeks, you’ll start to see that they cycle. Coupons for the same items come up on a rotating basis.
Sometimes that rotation is once a month, sometimes it’s a few times a year. Trust me, it’s really simple to figure out once you start looking.
A lot of it is common sense. Cough drop coupons come out during the winter when everyone is sick. Bug spray coupons come out in Spring and Summer. See? Simple.
What’s great is that most of the time, for seasonal items like cough drops and bug spray, stores are running promotions during the same time that coupons come out. This means that you can get major savings by using the coupons during those promotions.
You don’t have to plan and search to get your seasonal coupons and store promos to match up. Simply cut out coupons for items you know you’ll need to buy and always have them with you.
Then make a habit of checking the ad or the store for those items each time you shop. It doesn’t take much time at all to run down one more aisle to see if something is on sale.
Varying Monthly Values
Another aspect of coupons not being equal is the value of the coupon. You’ll start to notice that coupons will vary in value month to month for the same items.
For example, Tampax has monthly coupons. Every month, P&G will release a couple of Tampax coupons to cover their different products. These coupons can differ wildly in value, though, making the value of your time for cutting those coupons different each month.
I’ve seen as low as .50 off two boxes of Tampax and as high as $2.00 off of one box. It all depends. I’m sure it’s their advertising department testing to see which works best in the market to increase sales. Either way, don’t be fooled. Know the value of the things you buy most frequently and over time learn the best value of the coupons.
I used to cut all of the Tampax coupons out. Now, I never cut out anything less than $1.00 off per box. Anything less isn’t worth the time. That makes for less cutting time and less coupons in my envelope to look through when I shop.
The third and final aspect of coupon differences is new products vs products already in the market. New products will always have higher value coupons.
Companies go through a lot of effort to get us to buy their products. They know if they entice us with lucrative savings, it increases the chances of us making a purchase.
If you constantly buy the same brand of something, but you see that they have a new version with a high-value coupon, it’s worth cutting out. A lot of the time, it’s a new flavor, new recipe, or “improved” ingredients. It might be the same thing you normally buy anyway, even if it doesn’t appear so at first. If not, you can make the decision if you’re willing to try something new or not, but it’s usually worth it.
When Starbucks Refreshers came out in the stores, they had very high-value coupons and were on sale all the time to get people to try. A friend of mine, who did extreme couponing more than I did got tons for free by stacking those coupons with the sales. She ended up liking them and they lasted a long time!
Not all stores are created equal.
In addition to knowing your coupons, which I assure you will happen over time, no need to do anything special or spend lots of time trying to figure it out, you need to know your stores. This is the second step in the successful simple coupon strategy.
Most of us shop at the same handful of stores for everything. For me, it’s Aldi, Festival, or Woodman’s for groceries. Target for pretty much everything else. Sure, I venture to other stores here and there, but not usually. These are my go to’s.
The first thing is to make sure you’re not going to more stores than necessary. Yes, you can save even more that way, but we’re minimizing our time and effort, remember? Get the savings, but don’t search for the ultimate savings. That is where you’ll wind up stuck in the major time-sucking vortex of couponing.
Second, familiarize yourself with your stores’ coupon policies. For me, some stores will double coupons all the time or on certain days of the week. Keep that in mind when looking at the grocery ads and planning meals and the shopping trip for the week.
If I can get the same thing at one store that I can at another but I can double the coupon and save more at one of them, then I’ll go there.
I also keep in mind which stores have their own coupons. Most stores will let you use two coupons on an item if one coupon is a manufacturer’s coupon (like from the newspaper, it can be used anywhere) and the other is a store coupon (from their website, app, or ad and can only be used at their store). I know Target has store coupons so if I have a manufacturer’s coupon as well, I can get a good deal on a sale item.
Aldi’s doesn’t allow coupons at all. Since I go there all the time, I know the prices for pretty much everything I buy. If I see that Festival has a store coupon for an item, and I have a manufacturer’s coupon for it which will make it cheaper than Aldi’s regular price, I get it there.
It’s all about knowing your prices, knowing how your stores allow coupon usage and checking the ads. Once you remember these few things about what you normally buy and where you normally shop, it’ll be easy to see if something is a good deal or not.
Focus on your needs.
A huge trap for extreme couponers is buying things they don’t need. If it’s a good deal, they buy it. I don’t know why. The rush of a bargain, I guess. Do not let it happen to you by following the third step; focus on your needs!
To avoid falling into this trap you only need to follow one simple rule: if you don’t use it, don’t cut out a coupon for it. Focusing is the key to ensuring you’re not using more time and energy than necessary and that you’re sticking to a SIMPLE coupon strategy.
By all means, if you think you might use something or want to try something new, then cut out the coupon. But don’t cut coupons for items you know you don’t like or need. It will only cause you to spend time cutting out the coupon and looking for the item, money on buying the item, and then waste when you throw it away 6 months later when it’s expired.
The one exception to this rule is if you are a person that regularly buys items specifically to donate them. Most people don’t do this, but some do. If you are one of those people, then cut out the coupons whether you’ll use it or not. You can always add it to your donate pile.
To get more of the coupons for things you do use, ask friends, family, and neighbors for their coupon inserts. Don’t go any further than that. Anything more and you’ll be investing more time and energy than necessary. It’s always good to have a few of each in case you stumble upon a really great deal, but you really don’t need more than a couple of the same coupon. Trust me.
Keep your coupons on you at all times.
In order to be the most efficient with your time, you won’t always be looking for deals in advance. Instead, you’ll be stumbling upon them. That is the most critical difference between extreme couponing and a simple coupon strategy. This is the final step of using a simple coupon strategy.
To make sure that this works, however, you have to have your coupons with you while you’re out. You never know where you’ll find a really good deal.
My couponing friend happened to come across a clearance deal for dog food that is normally really expensive for her special dietary needs dog. She also had with her coupons she had cut out that made the food a ridiculously cheap deal. I can’t remember the exact cost, but it was something like a small bag of grain-free, chicken-free food which is normally $15 a bag and she got them each for around $2.
She used every coupon she had, and because she saved so much with those, she bought the rest without coupons! She saved enough to justify spending the extra since she knew the total would still be significantly lower than what she would normally pay for her dog’s food.
I’ve had similar experiences with things like toothpaste, pasta, and dog treats found at places I wouldn’t normally be shopping for those things, like Menards. You just never know where you’ll be when you find an amazing deal. You don’t want to end up spending more because you didn’t have your coupons!
A simple coupon strategy will save you money without sucking up all your time and energy
Couponing can be a terrific way to save money. As long as you do a little planning to get the knowledge you need on the items you buy and places you shop, focus on your needs, and are always prepared, it can help you save hundreds on groceries and household necessities.
If you’ve tried couponing before and found it too time-consuming to be worth the effort, I urge you to try again. I used to cut out every coupon and spend hours a week preparing and planning. Now I cut out a handful, and save a good chunk of money on just what I need. I assure you, it can be done painlessly!
If you’ve never done it before, give it a shot. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how a little effort, applied the right way, can really add up in long-term savings.
Do you use coupons on a regular basis? Would you say you follow a simple coupon strategy or are you an extreme couponer?
-To your Better Life-