I am most definitely not a Coupon Queen (Watch and laugh. Please.) I have, however, devised a system that allows me to save somewhere between $20-$30 every week.
Here are the things that I did/do that worked/work for me:
1. Prioritize: Decide what is important to you and your family. The reason setting your priorities is important is that it will, to some degree, influence how much money you are able to save. My priorities are lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic when possible/practical, and time. Fresh fruits and vegetables often don’t have coupons in the regular sunday paper or on the mainstream coupon websites. It’s also rare to find coupons on organic items in those same places. But I have made time and health a priority. Could I save more money if I went to multiple stores after perusing multiple store fliers to find the best deals on individual items? Or if I bought less fresh fruits and vegetables and more processed food? Probably...but having some time on Sunday afternoon with my husband while both of us are healthy and happy is more important to me.
2. Set aside some time: That being said....you are going to have to spend SOME time preparing. You can’t just walk into the nearest grocery store without doing any prep work and expect to come out with big savings. My preparation involves finding recipes for dinner for the week, making a list from those ingredients, “shopping” the house to see what we need to restock (or, more commonly, asking Z “do we need more toilet paper? What about rice?”), cutting coupons from the paper, printing coupons from websites, organizing coupons in my coupon book, pulling the coupons that I think I will want to use, and throwing away the coupons that have expired. Ummm...that’s why I can’t hang out with you on Sundays.
3. Make a list: This step is important (at least for me) because without a list, I usually end up forgetting about 3 things I need. That means multiple trips to the grocery store throughout the week, which is a waste of time. Also, without a list I end up with a mish-mash of stuff and no idea what to do with it for dinner.
4. Cut coupons: I love coupons. I really do. Each one is like money in your pocket. I use the Sunday paper for coupons but I also check out www.coupons.com, www.coolsavings.com, and www.couponbug.com. www.horizondairy.com and www.stonyfield.com offer some coupons on their organic dairy products.
Also check out your local grocery store’s coupon policy. A lot of places will double your coupons up to a certain amount if you have a member card with them.
5. Organize: This was the most important step for me but I imagine this is also the most personal step. I used to keep all of my coupons jumbled up together in an envelope in my purse and I never knew what coupons I had and what I didn’t. I also had to go through EVERY SINGLE COUPON every time I wanted to use a certain coupon. Again- waste of time. Then I tried one of those accordion wallet things for coupons. But I found that I still couldn’t keep track of what coupons I had and what I didn’t have.
So I got a small photo album and it changed my couponing life!! I am able to see each and every coupon that I have. I have them organized by section of the store. They are also organized so that the coupons that expire earlier are on top while the ones that expire later get put in the back. It’s got a nice hard cover that I can use to write on while at the store. Mine even has a rubber band around the outside that I use to hold the coupons that I use so that they are out of the way but still easily accessed at the checkout.
6. Pat yourself on the back: The grocery store that I go to puts the savings on the bottom of the receipt. I love looking at the total and telling myself that, because of a few hours spent on a Sunday afternoon, we have an extra $20-$30 in our pockets. YAY ME!
Some final thoughts:
- I don’t look at the store fliers included in the Sunday paper. I find that when I start buying stuff because “it’s a good deal” I end up spending more money and have a pantry full of stuff I don’t need.
- I go to the same grocery store every week. It saves time because I know where everything is. The store I go to also gives gas reward points (money off a gallon of gas for money spent at the store) which I think helps to even out the possibility that I could save more money elsewhere.
- Get a shoppers club/VIP/members card. Not all of my savings come from coupons. A lot are from deals that are given to store members. Also, at my store, coupons up to $.99 are doubled with a shoppers card. That means a $.75 off coupon turns into a $1.25 off coupon.
- It’s just me and Z at home...so I’m sure these rules will change as our family grows.
- Finally: Take what works for you. Ignore what doesn’t. If none of this makes sense...do your own thing. Whatev.
Do you do anything different? What works for you? Care to share?