Couponing can save you big bucks on your grocery shopping, but making common couponing mistakes can be costly. Avoid couponing mistakes and save the most money with these tips.
- Know the fine print and store policies. Avoid a time-consuming conflict at the register by reading the fine print on your coupons and knowing the store policies on how coupons can be used. Every coupon comes with fine print that spells out the expiration date, guidelines and restrictions for use; and store policies often vary from one store to the next, so print out a copy of your store’s coupon policies and carry it with you for quick reference.
- Don’t forget to stack your coupons. Do you have a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon for a particular item? Stack them to maximize your savings! Be sure you’re also using store loyalty cards to get the most bang for your buck at the register.
- Use coupons on sale items, too. Just because an item is on sale at your store doesn’t mean that the sale price is the lowest price. You will save the most using coupons when you combine those coupons with store sales. Most grocery stores follow a “sale cycle,” so get familiar with when particular items will go on sale (pay attention to those store ads that come in the mail!) and plan to use your coupons during the sale.
- Compare generic to name-brand prices. Oftentimes, the price of buying generic is still less than using a coupon on a brand name item. If the brand doesn’t matter, then be sure to skip the coupon and buy generic if it’s cheaper.
- If you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Just because something is on sale or you have a coupon doesn’t mean you need to buy it. If you won’t use it, don’t waste your money on it, no matter how good the bargain.
- Don’t invest more time than you can spare couponing. Couponing can easily become a job, so you need to determine how much time you have to spend couponing and find what works best for you within that time frame. This may just mean clipping coupons from Sunday’s paper. If you have more time to dedicate to couponing, then you might also try searching for coupons online. Remember, your time is valuable. If you are spending too much time couponing and end up neglecting other responsibilities, is the couponing really worth it?
- Compare prices between stores. When you have a manufacturer’s coupon for a particular item, you will save the most when you use that coupon at the store with the lowest price. Keep in mind also that most stores will price match, so don’t forget to carry competitor ads with you when shopping. Always remember to factor in the cost of gas if you will be driving to different stores to get everything on your shopping list. Just because you have a coupon, that doesn’t mean you’ll save money if it costs you more in time and gas to use that coupon.
- Watch your budget. If couponing requires you to buy in bulk to save money, but you don’t have the budget to buy in bulk, then it isn’t worth it. Couponing should help you save money and stretch your budget, not cause you to exceed your budget.
- Be organized. Keep your coupons organized using an accordion-style binder to keep your shopping trip as stress-free as possible. Organize coupons by type of product or store aisle, then organize each small group of coupons by expiration date. Be sure to toss any coupons that have expired.
- Don’t leave your coupons at home! This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is one of the most common couponing mistakes people make. Always carry your full binder of coupons with you—you never know when you’ll need to buy something that wasn’t on your original shopping list.
Couponing requires organization and careful planning, but it should not be an overwhelming experience or cause you undue stress. Find a system that works best for you and stick to that system. Remember: what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Your couponing system should save you time and money, not cost you.