The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2019 that most American families were spending over eight thousand dollars on food, toiletries, and hygiene products. If you only make twenty to thirty thousand dollars annually, that’s just shy of one-half or one-third of your yearly income! As the demand for food rises alongside inflation, the average cost of products is only expected to increase. Vote with your dollar by shopping at more economically friendly grocery stores and buying fruits and vegetables in season. While you may have heard this advice already, it’s not the only way to keep your cash in your pocket.
If you want to keep as many bills in your money clip as possible, get into couponing. The best thing you can do is make every cent count when you go to the grocery store. The trick is not to let your life revolve around couponing; conversely, figure out a structure that works for you and hold to it. Coupons can become your greatest way of saving time and money when used correctly.
Coupon like Your Grandmother and Save!
There are hacks that many people don’t know about, and the stores want to keep it that way! Get out of the dark and into the light with a couple of industry secrets. First off, consumers can utilize a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon in the same transaction on the same item. That’s right, double discount! Furthermore, you can even throw down two coupons while a store is advertising buy-one-get-one-free. You have to use the coupons to your advantage to create your own deal that’s three or four times better than what a store or company is offering. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to couponing; you just have to give yourself time while you guess and check. An educated guess isn’t the only route you have to take; there are a few methods you can use to get the most savings possible without losing all your free time.
Stay Up to Date with Deals and Add Coupons to Your Arsenal
Don’t go stealing your neighbor’s newspaper now. You don’t need that many coupons, but more is better than less. The easiest trick of the trade is to acquire more than one copy of the same coupon to spend the least amount possible should you stumble upon a deal. Additionally, don’t limit yourself to one type of coupon, like an investment portfolio; you want it diverse. Keep a stack of percent-off coupons separate from your cash rebate coupons and likewise with manufacturer coupons. When you find a deal, you can arrange these coupons to get yourself the most savings possible! So where can I find coupons?
You Have to Keep Your Eyes on ‘The Hot Sheets’
If you’ve never seen Men In Black, the “Hot Sheets” are what Agent K refers to as the outrageous newspapers that always have the most insane headlines and photographs that are hardly believable. Couponing is the same way; you need to find the magazines and catalogs that the general population will overlook, but not you!
Instead of disregarding the weekly grocery store flyer, jam your nose into it and see if there isn’t anything that can benefit you. These flyers normally feature discounted products and store promotions, so you can start building your coupon plan with what the store has already put on sale. You don’t have to wait for the print to hit the shelves, though; if you prefer a specific grocery store, check out their website or even download their app!
If downloading each store’s individual app will take too much space on your phone, look for an app that gathers hundreds or thousands of stores together and look through their advertisements, deals, and coupons from one spot. When you find a deal you like, you can save it in the application or even screenshot it to show the cashier at checkout.
As there is more than one store on the application, be sure to check that other stores don’t have a better deal, bada-bing bada-boom, you just price matched! Now you’re combining money-saving techniques, which is a money-saving method on its own!
Sign Up for Rewards Programs
Rewards programs are designed to turn a one-time consumer into a returning customer and then into a regular. Gas stations and convenience stores are notorious for this, and grocery stores have been running the same game. Stores like Meijer and Kroger are known for their rewards programs.
They even take it to the next level by encouraging customers to start a credit card with them. These company credit cards reward customers with a percentage off and percentage cashback deals just by spending money at the store, on their website, or buying their brand products. If you are a loyalty customer, you may receive a booklet every so often with coupons for things you tend to buy regularly, which is just another way to score points in the coupon game!
Don’t Rest on Sunday.
While everyone else is going to church, getting brunch, and then putting their feet up and watching the game, you need to get to work! The Sunday edition of your local paper is a gold mine for coupons. Here is where you can find the manufacturer and local coupons to add to your collection. Because of the different companies releasing coupons, this is an easy way to acquire more than one copy.
The important thing to remember is timing is everything; the Sunday edition is normally more expensive. If you sit tight until Monday, you can normally snag the Sunday paper for significantly less just because the content has become outdated. Luckily, you’re not reading the newspaper for its news content! Some of the more well-off coupon enthusiasts may have more than one newspaper subscription or be subscribed to many different newspapers. This strategy works, but you can always dumpster dive the recycling and find an extra copy of the newspaper(s) for free.
Coupons On-Site at a Store
Stores have become more direct with coupons that they want their customers to make use of. You may notice technology in the aisles or at the entrance of stores that dispense coupons. You may even still see the paper-printed coupons informing you to rip along the perforated edge. While these coupons are right under the nose of the general population, many people do not take the time to reach for them! Not every store is as generous; some stores will require the customer to be bold and request them from the customer service desk.
What’s a ‘Catalina’?
For those that aren’t familiar, a Catalina machine is found at the checkout of a store and prints coupons based on your purchase. Simply by spending money at a store and spending enough money on certain products, you get rewarded with coupons. There are a few Catalina coupons, such as a manufacturer coupon for a percentage off a product, buy-one-get-one discount, and even on-your-next-order discount.
Obscure Ways to Acquire Coupons
Have you ever written a letter to a company and praised their products? They may send a generic letter back to you, or maybe it will go unnoticed. However, there is a chance that the manufacturer will send you coupons and perhaps even new products! Company-sent coupons are usually more lucrative than coupons you find in a store or the newspaper.
You can always talk to your friends and neighbors. A lot of people get a newspaper or magazine but pay no mind to the coupons inside. Instead of letting these coupon inserts end up in the recycling, recycle your neighbors’ coupons and use them for yourself. It doesn’t hurt to ask, what’s the worst they will say, “no”?
Prevent Coupon Clutter
With all these coupons coming in, it can be easy to get lost in your sea of savings. Don’t let your coupons turn into a mess. Keep yourself organized. The best way to organize coupons is by product, manufacturer, store, and expiration date.
This is the easiest to do when you have a coupon binder. Organize the binder in alphabetical order and place the coupons in a trading card protective sheet. Coupon binders are about ten to twenty dollars depending on their size. A small binder normally has about eight to one hundred twenty pockets, while larger binders will have somewhere between two and three hundred. Your binder is where you’ll want to store the majority of your coupons, but you will want to invest in what is referred to as pocket pages for day-to-day coupons. Pocket pages are for coupons that expire within a few days, are only good for a specific store, or you just don’t feel like bringing your entire inventory with you while you shop.
If you can’t get down with the pocket pages, meet in the middle with an expanding file folder. It’s not as small as a pocket page, but it isn’t quite as bulky as lugging around an entire binder.
Store Coupon Policies
Before you run out the door and try to put your coupons to the test, you need to check the store’s coupon policy. It’s important to know if a store will ever double the value of a coupon or set a limit on coupons you have two of, will they accept or double a competitor’s coupon(s), will they allow you to use a coupon with a buy one get one sale, and if they provide a senior, student, or veteran discount. Policies change all the time, so check often.
Keep a copy of the coupon policy in case an employee tries to deny your coupon. The sure-fire way to catch a deal is just to be a loyal customer and make friends with the store owner or manager; people are more inclined to help people that they like.
What Extreme Couponing Really Looks Like
Extreme couponers know how to stack their coupons. The best way to start coupon stacking is by using a manufacturer coupon on an already discounted item. Most stores still turn a profit when you use a manufacturer coupon on a sale item, so start with the manufacturer-coupon-stacked-on-store-sale when first experimenting with stacking coupons.
Next, stack a manufacturer coupon on a store coupon. If you’re real slick, you’ll figure out how to stack a manufacturer coupon on a store coupon on top of an item on sale. Just by stacking coupons, you can automatically get forty to sixty percent off an item, and all you did was show them a piece of paper! If a store has a buy-one-get-one deal, stack your coupons on top of the deal to get seventy to ninety percent off. It’s rare, but in some cases, you might even be able to get some products for free, depending on how smooth you are and the cashier’s attitude checking you out.
Overages are always a win!
The best way to win is by stacking your coupons for overages. An overage is when your coupon discount combined with a store’s sale is greater than what you’re purchasing. Look at it this way; if a candy bar costs one dollar but is on sale at a store for seventy-five cents, and you pay for the candy bar with a “one dollar off” coupon, you now have an overage of twenty-five cents. While larger stores, such as Walmart and Kroger, will pay out overages, not every store is quick to honor them, especially smaller, local stores.
The biggest thing to remember when coupon stacking is to give your coupons to the cashier in the proper order to give yourself the best discount.
For example, if you purchase a ten-dollar item, but you have a ten percent off coupon and a five-dollar off coupon, you will want to hand the cashier the five dollars off coupon first. This will bring the ten-dollar item down to five dollars, then use the ten percent off coupon on what is now five dollars to end up paying four dollars and fifty cents for a ten-dollar item.
If you give the ten percent off coupon first, you will drop the ten-dollar item to nine dollars and ninety cents, then receive five dollars off for a total of four dollars and ninety cents. While one might say, well, that’s the difference of forty cents, but hey, it’s forty cents that are staying in your pocket!
Couponing Best Practices
If you’ve never used coupons when at the cash register, it can be a little nerve-racking. Don’t go to the store when everyone else is trying to buy their groceries for the week or the month; no one wants to have to sit behind you while you rifle through all your coupons. Don’t get yourself hated by the other customers and shop in the middle of the day or when you know the store is slow, employees may be more inclined to hook you up with coupon stacking and deals when they haven’t dealt with a bunch of rude customers in a rush to get home.
While everyone loves technology, bring a pen and paper. It’s easier to refer back to when you have to make adjustments on the fly rather than whipping out your smartphone every time you need to make a change.
Most importantly, as a consumer, you owe your allegiance to no one. Being loyal to a brand is not the way to extreme couponing. Just because you have a coupon for it does not mean that your brand is the economical choice. Ignore the brand. Pay attention to the discounted product so you can stack your coupons on top of the store’s sale.
Use extreme couponing to put your money towards paying off debt, investing money, and even spend more time doing what you like. Once you get good at extreme couponing, you can start donating more to charities, homeless shelters, and animal shelters since you know how to catch a break. Take extreme couponing and run with it as far as you can. Aside from helping yourself, you can help out your neighborhood and the local community.