Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Coupons 101: Who Turns Down Free Stuff?

I'll bet we're not the only family tightening our belts lately.  Since I haven't taken any new projects with my company, I have a lot of time to contemplate how we can improve our personal finances by spending less.  This goal is greatly enhanced by the fact that most days I do not have a car to go shopping out of boredom and thus spend all our fruitful savings.

Never in a million years did I think I would write a post about coupons.  Unless it was a coupon for Starbucks, clothing, shoes or my blessed Central Market grocery store, I would ignore them or throw them away.  I thought that I wouldn't use any of those products anyway.  And, it's true that I normally wouldn't have, but with my newfound pursuit turning into a hobby, I have reconsidered the way I shop for groceries and toiletries.  

I am truly amazed that with coupons and a lot of super savvy combinations of sales with coupons, you can get many items for free or nearly free.  It does take a lot of time to find coupons, cut them, organize them and compare them to the weekly sales.   Sometimes I still think it isn't worth the trouble, but since I do have the time I'm going to continue on and see how it works out. 

It must be said, that using coupons can become like a game because it's such a challenge.  The downside of this is losing complete perspective and buying things that you really won't ever use.  If you think this will be a temptation for you, then plan ahead to donate what you get for free or nearly free to a food bank, women's shelter or a school.  It is hard to pass up items that will be free after all.  

The basic concept is this:  

1-Find coupon for what you regularly buy or would like to try.

2-Try to find item on sale in your grocery store.  If it is convenient, go to several stores to take advantage of their "loss leaders".

INSIDER TIP:  Grocery stores put items on sale a month after coupons come out.  You can save your coupon until that time and save even more.

3-Find a grocery that doubles or triples coupons all the time.  I haven't done this yet, but I think Kroger does it.  They will double or triple your coupon up to $1.00.

4-Double up a store coupon and manufacturer coupon.  Some stores have their own coupons like Target.  For each item, you can have two coupons.  

INSIDER TIP:  Don't let the cashier tell you that you can't do that, because you can!!!  This is a definite Beware of Embarrassment Warning!!   The cashiers and managers sometimes aren't really nice, but that's ok with me.

If  you have a CVS where you are, they have a program called Extra Care Bucks.  You have to have a a free Extra Care card to take advantage of this.  They have two sales flyers, one is weekly and one is monthly.  The monthly will tell you most of the ECB that you can earn.  For example, last month I bought, among other things, a Listerine mouthwash for $3.49 and they give you $3.49 ECB.  So you purchase it, and when you get your receipt there is a coupon for $3.49 for you to use immediately to buy something else.  I reason that if I am going to buy something there anyway, why not take advantage of these and get the other item for free.  This process took me a while to figure out.  The best site for a CVS Primer is Money Saving Mom. Go visit her and you will be inspired.

If you don't get the Sunday paper where most of the coupons come from, you can print your own coupons.  There are several websites where you can choose the coupons you like, print them and use them the same as the ones from the paper.  Try coupons.com (in the sidebar) each week for new ones.  

Always look at Retail Me Not for online coupon codes before you make an online purchase. Thanks Renee for that link!

Let me know if you have some tips for me.  I am new to this and would love to learn some new tricks too.  Saving money on groceries leaves more money for my perfume and lipstick account! 


LockFlow said...

Great post! Could I recommend you checkout www.halfpricebob.com is a site with coupon codes for thousands of daily deals! Drop me a line and say hello!

deloann said...

enjoyed your ideas ; may start my own coupon cutting....always enjoys reading your blog....keegan is a gorgeous dog!!! enjoy and write more....

LJ said...

I just nominated you for a Premio Award! Go to my blog for more info!


Anonymous said...

Don't forget to use ebates or mr rebates when making a purchase online. Many stores are listed.

Our Trip to Rosemary Beach, Florida

I'm linking up again with  Erika ,  Andrea  and  Narci  for the Friday Favorites!  I love reading everyone's favorites too! ...