Couponing for the last 5 or 6 years has taught me many things. Things I never really paid attention to before I started using coupons.
Since not everyone is interested in learning about coupons or even extreme couponing, I thought I would share some of my enlightenment with you all.
Prices on most products change all the time.
Most times it appears to be weekly or bi-weekly, but sometimes it can be longer in between.
For example: a box of Quaker Instant Oatmeal (10 packets) can be 3.99, then 2 for $5.00, then $1.99, then $2.99.
Pay attention to the price tag.
Before I started couponing, I really didn’t pay much attention to each item’s price. I would mentally add up the total of our needed items and then get our wanted items with the remaining balance.
You don’t always have to pay full price.
If you pay attention to prices and watch the sales, even a non-couponer can save a lot of money. You just buy a few extra of the items you normally use when they’re on sale. That way, you have enough of the product to hold you over until the next sale price comes along.
Get the stupid store cards.
Sure they use them to track your purchases and send you offers on the items you purchase most frequently, but there are other benefits. Some stores only give you the sale price if you have their club/store card. Why would you want to pay more on multiple items just to have a little privacy? Besides, if you pay with a credit or debit card, they can still track your purchases.
In addition to getting sale prices, many stores will let you add e-coupons onto your store card to help you save additional money. Short on time? Just go in and “select all” or “add all” offers to your card. That way, you don’t have to worry about tracking the e-coupons or printing a list of the offers. If there’s a coupon for something you end up purchasing, great…it will automatically be deducted when you check out.
Buy 1 Get 1 Free isn’t always a great deal
Many people get excited when they see their favorite product is Buy One Get One Free. The problem with that is, not everyone knows how much the product is normally priced at. I’ve seen numerous stores, as well as online retailers, drastically mark-up the regular price on items for these sales. That’s how they stay in business.
For example: Say your favorite shampoo is on sale for Buy One Get One Free, but the regular price is marked as $9.99. The next week, you go back and see the regular price is now $4.49. Your Buy 1 Get 1 Free, just cost you more money.
Even if the “real” regular price isn’t less than half, don’t fool yourself into believing that one of the items is actually free.
Check your receipts
Before I started using coupons, the only time I would check my receipt was if I needed to return an item. Now I check every single receipt before I leave the store, even if I hadn’t used any coupons.
I’ve been double and triple charged for an item before. I’ve had the price come up higher than what the shelf price was. I wonder how much money I let slip away in all those years of oblivion. Check your receipt and make sure you aren’t being charged more than you should be.
Keep your receipts
I know, most people are probably thinking that’s nuts. So many receipts coming in from gas, groceries and whatever…they really add up quickly. There are things you can do to keep them from taking over your house, such as keeping them in a large ziplock bag and pushing all the air out, just shoving them into an empty shoebox, scanning them or taking a picture of them with your tablet or cellphone.
Sometimes things need to be returned, even those you would never consider (like grocery items).
They can come in handy around tax time for business purchases, work related purchases or even getting a larger deduction on sales tax paid.
Plus, you never know when you’ll stumble upon a mail-in-rebate for something you have already purchased. Mail-in-rebates really aren’t that difficult and only take a couple of minutes, a stamp and an envelope. Then you mail them off and a month or two later, there’s a check in the mail.
For more information about how to do mail-in-rebates, check out my post: Taking Advantage of Rebates.
Sale prices can be deceiving
Just because something has a sale tag on the shelf, that doesn’t mean it’s the lowest price. Remember how I was mentioning above that prices change all the time? Well the same goes for sale prices. You can purchase an item on sale this week for $2.99, then see it on sale the following week for $1.99. Know the prices of your most commonly purchased items and you’ll know when it’s really a good deal; don’t just trust a sale tag.
Check your store’s weekly ad
Most grocery stores and some super-stores (Target, Walmart, etc.) put out weekly ads. These advertise various sales and products they want people to purchase, even if they aren’t on sale. Most, if not all, grocery store ads include store coupons. Sometimes the coupons have to be handed over to actually get the price listed, so don’t forget to cut them out, rip them out or hand over the ad and tell the cashier which one’s to scan.
Knowing what items are on sale and have in-ad coupons ahead of time can help you stretch your grocery budget, plan your meals and stock-up on items at a much lower than normal price. This all comes down to saving money in the end.
Embrace loss leaders
Loss leaders are items that are marked WAY down to get customers into the store. Most people will end up buying more than the just the loss leader item since they’re already in the store.
Example: Fred Meyer (grocery store) will sometimes have the Tillamook 2 pound medium cheddar loaves for $3.99 with an in-ad coupon. There is usually a limit of 1, but who goes into a store for just 1 thing? See what they do there.
Normally, the same cheese is between $5.99 and $7.99. So being able to get it for just under 4 dollars is amazing if you go through it a lot (we sure do, lol). But a limit of 1 doesn’t sound like you can really stock up on it to save money. Oh, but you can.
Perhaps the store is on your way home from work, or you pass it frequently while running errands or whatnot. Just pop in, grab 1 and get outta there. You could also have other people in your household stop by and do a transaction. Or you could ask a friend or family member to pick one up for you if they’re in the store.
*** Using coupons doesn’t mean you’re poor or cheap ***
Some people are hesitant, scared or too embarrassed to use coupons because they’re worried about what everyone will think of them. But you know what, who cares what other people think? It’s your money that you work hard for, so why not be smart and pay less when you can?
You don’t have to go all Extreme Coupon Crazy and buy 100 candy bars or boxes of pasta to save money. Just browsing online at some printable coupons before going to the store can add up to big savings over time. Get free printable coupons now from Coupons.com, that’s where I go before heading to the store.
Sometimes that’s all I have time to do, I just jump online and quickly scan the coupons available for printing, click the box to clip the coupon and click print when I’m all done. It takes maybe 5 minutes to scan, click, print and cut out the coupons. If it ends up saving me 20 bucks for that shopping trip, then I just essentially made $20.00 in 5 minutes. Easy peasy.
I guess the bottom line is that you can save a lot of money, even if you don’t use coupons. Just like how you can save money even if you’re always broke.