Clipping coupons, buying extra items when they were on sale and the like seemed something I remember my Grandma doing when I was younger.
Today though, everyone’s looking to save money where they can and using coupons and the web to shave cents or dollars is something that is much more mainstream than before – maybe it’s just caught more of my attention. More surprising, it has changed where my family shops – and gotten most of the family involved.
I used to think that coupons were simply a means of the brand-name manufacturers getting you to buy stuff you wouldn’t normally buy, still pay more than you should, and feel good about it at the end. I figured we could do better just buying the off-brand, private label stuff. Now I’m not so sure.
It started with my wife suggesting we get the Sunday paper for the coupons a few months ago. After nearly a decade since our last subscription to a print newspaper, I was skeptical. Three months into my wife’s experiment, however, my viewpoint has changed.
Armed with the coupons from the Sunday paper, my wife does the initial pass for the coupons that are for things we would use and they get clipped for the coming week. Next, she logs into CouponMom and tracks the coupons from earlier weeks if the items may have gone on sale. For the specialty items or (sometimes) non-food items, she will visit RetailMeNot and will look at other coupon-code clearinghouses like CurrentCodes or CouponCabin. Then, she plans her trips to the store like special forces plan their missions – this day/store for these items, another store for some of the other items, etc.
She knows to take advantage of the double-coupon days at the grocery store, and she combines the coupons with the in-store offer of a cheaper price when buying multiple items. There have been times where the price of the items are $3.99 and the coupons with the in-store offer have saved more than $4…(so now manufacturers and retailers are paying her to take their products). Of course, this means that sometimes we have three bottles of shampoo sitting in the house or eight cans of soup or whatever. We’ve sectioned off a couple shelves in a closet and dubbed it Overstock-dot-mom.
What specific things has she found?
Multiple newspapers. We get three Sunday papers every week. So three sets of coupons. She may use one or two right away or use the others later on when the items have gone on sale again before the coupons expire. Probably 5 of every 6 weeks, this pays off big time.
Combine the coupons with in-store sales. This is where the
GeekMom makes her killing. She’ll buy stuff with coupons, but only when it’s already on sale.
Have a system. CouponMom is her go-to site for helping organize, but she’s also got a system for tagging and highlighting the coupons we will use along with getting rid of the coupons once the expiration date has passed.
Use the double-coupon days. There’s one store in our area that offers double coupons up to a $5 limit. Guess which grocery store gets a bunch of our business on Wednesdays?
If you aren’t going to use it, don’t buy it. We get tons of coupons for stuff we’re never going to eat or use. Those coupons never get clipped. Even though they never get clipped, we more than pay for the cost of the newspapers every single week.
Using these ideas, the GeekMom is typically able to get between 50%
and 60% off of some of her shopping trips…the check-out people at the stores have expressed their amazement.
Most interesting to me is the change in where the GeekMom shops. The local grocery stores are a given, but with the coupons, we’ve found a fair amount of our weekly spending happening at
Walgreens instead of Wal-Mart (that alone would make some claim there is a God).
Also, we’ve found that even buying and stocking up, we’re meeting our food budget each month – something we weren’t able to do all of last summer and fall…and the oldest GeekTeen has taken to clipping coupons when the GeekMom is busy.