3/21/2013 7:25 PM ET|
The beginner's guide to couponing
If you think it's too complicated or time-consuming to be worth the effort, it's possible these 5 tips can make it simple and worthwhile.
Love them or hate them. Take them or leave them. The truth still stands: Using coupons can save you a lot of money -- if you know how to use them correctly.
Let's face it: No one wants to spend hours clipping coupons just to save a couple of bucks.
But if it's done right, couponing shouldn't take more than an hour a week of your time -- and it could save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year.
At least that's what couponing looks like for Andrea Deckard of SavingsLifestyle.com (a LearnVest site). She saved $6,500 in her first year of couponing -- and she's willing to share her secrets with you.
What's the best way to start?
Deckard points out that printable coupon sites, like CouponNetwork, are particularly convenient for grocery coupons, along with newspapers. "I encourage people to subscribe to the newspaper," she says, "because if you purchase one in-store, you may not receive the same coupons." For online shopping, she likes Savings.com, which constantly updates coupon offers for hundreds of retailers.
Deckard also advises looking at your spending over the past three months. Set a small goal to reduce your expenses by 10% to 20% in three months, and aim to spend no more than one hour searching for coupons each week. "In the beginning, it could take a little longer to scope out where the good deals are for your favorite stores," she says, "but setting a goal for one hour, once you figure that out, is realistic."
After three months, challenge yourself to spend 10% less, and continue to set small challenges for yourself in this way until you reach your desired savings. According to Deckard, focused efforts could realistically shave 50% to 75% on your grocery bill. "Whatever you do, don't compare yourself to others," she adds. "Your family's situation is unique, and your goals will likely be different. Make only small changes that you can stick with for the long haul."
5 tips for successful couponing
Before acting on the below five steps, start with Deckard's rule for beginners: If a store doesn't have at least five sale items that you need, don't bother going. You'll waste time and gas if you're driving around to different stores for just one or two items.
No. 1: Get organized
Whether you clip and sort coupons in a binder or file them all by store into separate folders, experiment with different methods that will help you save time both when searching at home ("Hey, I already have a coupon for mustard!") and when you're in the store.
No. 2: Focus on one store -- to start
If you purchase most of your cleaning supplies at Target, for example, begin your coupon search there. You'll be less overwhelmed this way, and you'll gain confidence as you start to see how much you're saving on the things that your family needs. When you feel you've conquered one store, you can branch out to others.
No. 3: Clip based on need
Figure out exactly what you'll be shopping for and base your coupon search on those items only. So if you're heading to Shop Rite for three dinners that you plan to make, focus your coupon search for items on your "to buy" list, and ignore everything else.
No. 4: Stockpile to save even more
Once you've gotten the hang of general couponing for a purpose, you can start stockpiling purchases for your favorite nonperishable items, like rice, pasta and coffee. To do this, keep a running list of the items that are in constant rotation in your house, and update the inventory each week so you'll always know what's running low. This way, when you come across that 15% coupon savings on pasta sauce, you'll know if you need to use it or not. Not only will you be stocked up on things that you'll actually use, but you'll also have gotten it all for a great price.
No. 5: Learn the drugstore rules
Shopping at stores like CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid can take more time to master, since each has its own reward system. So read all the fine print on their coupons, and when you find a store that you believe offers the best rewards, do the majority of your shopping there to get the most savings. (And check out LearnVest's comparison of online drugstores for even more money-saving advice.)
More from LearnVest.com:
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If you are not already clipping coupons for your own use or for a specific charity please consider clipping and shipping all manufacturers' coupons to support the troops and their families stationed in camps overseas. We have friends who were deployed to a camp in Korea a year ago. The prices of food and fuel are high. If you look for project troopon on line there is an address to send mfg cpns. They sort and distribute the coupons directly to the commissaries for military personnel and their families to go through before they start shopping so they can take what ever coupons they need. Please please please consider helping our troops and their families who've been deployed to these overseas locations. Your help can make enough difference in their budgets so they can afford to buy fresh produce. Remember look for the troopon project on line They'll even take expired coupons within a certain time frame. Thank you thank you thank you. . .
You need to watch stores. Social Security checks go into accounts on Wednesdays. Walmarts prices on milk and eggs are almost always double on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
save money yes, but time? how do you save time if your taking 20-30 hours per week doing this.. that 20-30 hours in wages was like... 100's of dollars.. of what you JUST saved in food.. all in all you come out even with the rest of society....except you wasted MORE time then us... if you dont like high food prices.. stop kicking out 5 kids and get a real job...dont live on welfare...like 50% of the nation does
Extreme Couponing involves restaurant
and manufacture coupons. I gross around
$500 within a month.
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