In these tough economic times, there’s nothing wrong with saving a buck here or there on the staples that keep you and your family comfortable. Couponing has been around for ages, but recently this money-saving practice has gained the national spotlight, which is causing a lot of people to want to learn how it’s done. There are dozens of how to couponing books, courses and websites that show eager consumers the abc’s of couponing.
On the surface, couponing seems pretty simple in that you find out where you can get your hands on coupons, then clip or print them out. Each week, the manufacturers of your favorite brands of perishable and non-perishable items offer coupons to lure you into the store to pick up an item you can save money on. And, at its core, saving money is what couponing is all about. When household budget’s are tight, it can be an exciting feeling when you save 30-75% off your grocery bill.
TV shows, books and seminars about extreme couponing have helped fuel the current coupon craze. Extreme couponing is for those who have the time and energy to collect and use coupons in a manner that saves them a ton of money at the check out counter. I’m sure you’ve heard about those people that show up at a store with their stack of coupons and shopping list, only to leave with a full cart while spending next to no out of pocket money.
While this is admirable, the average shopper simply wants to save a few dollars here and there by taking advantage of coupon savings. Sure, you want to save money on your regular shopping excursions, but you’re not looking to make couponing your life.
Here’s 5 Rules for Using Coupons Wisely:
Rule #1: Get Coupons for Things You Actually Use
Clipping coupons can be so much fun that sometimes people overdo it and choose coupons for products that they don’t normally use or need. Getting excited because something is on sale is not really going to save you money in the long run. What’s the point of buying a brand of cereal that no one in your family likes simply because there’s a $ 1.50 coupon?
Likewise, stocking up on a six-month’s supply of cake mix is excessive, and prevents you from using that money on other items that may be more practical. Before you clip that coupon, take a moment to think about how you’ll actually make use of this item.
Rule #2: Use Coupons When There is a Sale
You’ll get more “bang for your buck” with a coupon when that same item is also on sale at the local store. Check your store’s weekly flyers for special sales and then see if you can find a coupon for that item. If so, you’re in luck because you’re going to save twice as much money. Also, check to see if your store has a day when coupons are worth double their value.
Rule #3: Check Your Store’s Coupon Policy
Stores that accept coupons have various policies, and you can’t assume that you’ll be able to use your coupons in one store the same as another store. It’s a good idea to visit the store’s website and print out their coupon policy. Bring this with you whenever you visit that store to shop. This way, if there are any disputes or questions concerning your using a particular coupon, you can whip out their policy on the spot. Familiarize yourself with the policy and know ahead of time if there are certain restrictions on coupons.
Rule #4: Keep Coupons Organized
It’s important that you separate and organize your coupons neatly so that you can find them when needed. No use in having a bunch of coupons that are laying around in a big pile somewhere. Purchase a labeled index card file or a binder and put plastic baseball cardholders inside. This way, you’ll be able to see the actual coupon and the expiration date clearly. Also get a portable pouch that you can carry your coupons in when going to the store.
Rule #5: Be Vigilant at the Checkout Counter
Some checkout clerks are great when it comes to processing coupons, and others…not so much. Make sure you have handed the cashier all of your coupons and that each one has been properly scanned into the register. Sometimes a clerk will balk at accepting a certain coupon or refuse to accept all of your coupons on an item. This is where your knowledge about store policy comes in handy. Clerks can be wrong on occasion, so if you feel that your coupon should be accepted, don’t make a scene. Instead, calmly ask to speak to the store manager and show them your printed out store policy. The manager will check to see what is the correct coupon policy and hopefully things will be resolved in your favor.