I have been clipping coupons since I was a child. My mother and I would pick up the Sunday paper, eat breakfast and clip coupons. It was our ritual every Sunday! I have continued this well into my adulthood and now with the increase of coupon sites, shopping blogs & coupon clipping services the opportunities extend well beyond the Sunday Paper.
Let me preface this by saying I am by far NOT an Extreme Coupon shopper. I will say on average I usually save around 50% of the original bill using coupons and the frequent shopper cards.
So here are some of my tips for saving money using coupons:
1. If the store has a frequent shopper discount card — GET IT!
You can’t go wrong with this. When I walk into a store I ask if they have one and if they do I take the application and fill it out before I get ready to check out. Then I turn the application in to Customer Service and receive my card. You can also do this at the register. But ask first, you don’t want to be the one holding up the line!
2. Obtain the Sunday paper for your area
It is in your best interest to get a subscription to the Sunday paper vs. going to buy a paper from the store. Cost wise a subscription will cost up to 99 cent per paper depending on your area. While buying the paper at the local convenience store will cost up to $2.50. (rates vary by area so please don’t quote me on these dollar amounts they are just a reflection of my area)
3. Get familiar with the layout, inventory, & coupon policy of your local store
I don’t mean to physically take inventory, I mean know whether this location has everything that you want or if they don’t. Remember all stores are not created equal.
It is key that you visit the store’s website to check out their coupon policy. Many stores will double coupons up to 99cents, while others may double up to $1. They may also specify the number of duplicate coupons you can use or the number of coupons they will double.
4. Get organized
Once you have clipped your coupons you have to organize them. I do not have a large binder and to start with I wouldn’t recommend you do that either. Often just to start out you should just use an envelope or find a small accordion file folder to help separate the different categories of coupons. Also its important to look at the date. Many coupons expire in 1 months time. I constantly refresh my coupons moving my “soon to expire” coupons to the front.
5. Have a strategy
Your strategy is where you will stay focused on what it is that you want and where you are getting the particular items. It is very important that you do not get distracted. Stay on task and you will save money! Remember if you don’t have a coupon for it you should wait on it!
My CVS Experience
So this week I have been having an extreme coupon experience at my local CVS. I work in the DC area and I am surrounded by 5 CVS locations, 2 of which are at opposite ends of my office building 1 block apart. Reflecting back on tip #3 each location has its pluses and minuses. So I started to make a plan.
Step 1 – I always get the coupons from the person at the front desk in the building. After I take out the coupons I want, I always share with a coworker by giving her the remainder coupons.
Step 2 – Obtain a sales flyer from CVS and do a “walk thru” to see if either of the 2 CVS locations carried the items I wanted. I knew I wanted home scented items like glade candles and plugins and that I wanted makeup. One CVS location has a fantastic beauty section and a horrible home goods section. While the other store had a great home goods section and a mediocre beauty section.
Step 3 – I separate my coupons by the deals advertised. Meaning that I take my coupons and group them by deal and clip them to the CVS sales flyer.
This way I can stay focused on what I want and I am not searching for coupons while in the store.
Step 4 – Before I enter the store I have to have a plan of attack! In this case the best deal was for Glade scented items. The deal was to purchase $20 worth of goods (pre-tax) and in return I would get $10 in the form of Extrabucks to use later. Now if you are not familiar with CVS and extrabucks you can use them on ANYTHING in the store, BUT you have to have a frequent shopper card.
Step 5 – SHOP
And there it is! My $10 voucher. Now for the minor details.
– I spent about $28 before any of my manufacturer coupons. I had $3 in coupons and after tax I spent $25. So after you deduct the $10 in extrabucks it was like I spent $15. Not bad I would say! (Side note… Read the small print. CVS and Glade will only allow 1 $10 reward per household. What does this mean for you? Spend no more than $20-$25 because you will not get multiples of the reward because you spent over $40)
So what next??? Of course you take this $10 and you buy something else. And since I knew that Cover Girl was offering the next best deal that is what I did. Also unlike Glade, Cover Girl allowed 2 rewards per household. Now you are probably asking why didn’t I just do one transaction … Well for one thing I don’t need that much Cover Girl makeup, I only had a few Cover Girl manufacturer coupons and one of my coupons was giving a weird error which I couldn’t fix until later, resulting in 3 separate transactions. Good news though I combined the $10 in extrabucks with my $4.50 in manufacturer coupons to buy 2 Nail Polishes and a lip gloss for $4. After my coupon mishap was fixed (thats why you make friends with people in the store) I did spend an additional $9 for 2 quad eyeshadows.
So in total I spent $38 for 2 Cover Girl quad shadows, 1 CoverGirl Wet Slicks lip gloss, 2 Cover Girl Nail Polishes, 2 Glade candles, 2 Glade plug-ins, & 2 Glade wax melts. When I went over the receipts, if I wouldn’t have used ANY coupons/extrabucks etc I would have spent $60. Oh and I still have a $7 extrabucks voucher to use!!
– CVS is still pretty expensive compared to say Walmart or Target… But really not by much. You pay for convenience when shopping at CVS and in DC you have to travel quite a bit to find a Walmart close to a Metro line. And since I don’t have a car the extra time it would take to get to Target or Walmart is just not worth it.
– When comparing prices and policies Walmart only differs anywhere from a few pennies to $1 on certain items. Then they don’t double coupons nor do they offer specials. I would advise you to shop around, if you can to see what works best for you. While I won’t be at CVS everyday when I see a deal I go for it!
So for your basic grocery stores a lot of the same tips can cross over. Check the coupon policy, canvas the store and look at their selections. You still need to plan out what you want. If you don’t have a coupon DON’T BUY IT! Some grocery stores also offer the coupons “save $5 when you spend $50” (or something along those lines). If you can get your hands on those then do so but be prepared to have multiple transactions.
I hope this helps you save lots of money!
Be sure to comment below about your shopping experiences with coupons, any sites that you use, any other tips and if this helped you at all be sure to share with your friends and family members!