Extreme couponing has become a craze that could double as professional sport. Reality shows feature couponers walking out with carts of goods and, miraculously, paying with a five dollar bill and getting change back. It makes us collectively say, “How’d they do that?!”
The reality of those trips breeze past the fact that those savvy shoppers have probably been preparing for days…just for that one shopping trip. However, watching it happen gives us all dreams of our weekly grocery bill dwindling down to average price of a grande latte.
The hard truth is that scoring a deal like that takes hours, multiple printers, dumpster-diving for newspaper coupons or an investment into a service that sells mass quantities of clipped savings. Also, keep in mind what they are walking out with…their loot usually consists of mass quantities of a handful of assorted products. I don’t know about you but I don’t need 100 mustard or 50 bottles of hot sauce!
Don’t give up though! There is truth and reality rooted in saving BIG.
5 Secrets to Realistic Couponing:
1. Know Your Store’s Coupon Policy – Did you know Meijer accepts competitor’s coupons? Did you know that Target and Walmart will ad match prices? Every store is different, so ask a manager or the customer service desk and print off the corporate polices and carry them with you when you shop. (I stress carrying a copy of the policy. I can’t tell you how many times cashiers were unaware of their own store policies.)
Example 1 – Target offers store coupons you can find on their website. They also have a new savings program called Cartwheel, that offers percentage discounts off particular items. More information and how to sign up can be found on the store site.
Example 2 – Meijer began accepting competitor’s store coupons (including Catalina’s). You can take those Target store coupons or Walgreens store coupons you find in their ads/website and Meijer will honor them. (Make sure the competitor coupon is from a store in the area. If the competing store isn’t within reasonable driving distance – they won’t let you use their store coupons.)
2. Stacking – Once you know your store’s coupon policies you can build the savings by “stacking” deals. Basically, it means combining sales, coupons or offers on one item.
Example – Target has many ways of saving and you can stack those savings options. An item is on sale + you have a manufacturer coupon + a store coupon + the item has a Cartwheel savings = BIG savings! Meijer will also allow you to combine a store coupon (both their store coupons -which you can often find in their mPerks program- or competitor store coupons) with a manufacturer coupon.
3. Stockpile – This is how those extreme couponers get their weekly grocery bills down to single digits. One questions how families live on 20 sticks of deodorant, 30 boxes of cereal, 15 jugs of juice and 40 toothbrushes for the week. It’s because they have been building a small grocery store in their homes. It will take awhile, but it can be done. When an item goes on sale and you can stack deals to make it super cheap or free and then buy and store whatever you can. Over time, you will build a stockpile and only need to refill certain products on a weekly basis.
4. Sales – Sometimes you don’t have the option of a coupon for an item. So, you are left with the sale. Often, a good sale will beat a coupon when it comes to price. Watch out for those “sales” that aren’t really discounts. It’s not uncommon for a regular price and “sale” price to only be different by a few pennies. Wait until you’ve actually offered a good price cut. You will find that every store has a sale cycle except Walmart. Walmart offers everyday low prices instead.
Example – Diet/healthy foods, oatmeal, Christmas décor, cold medicines in January. Canned goods, chocolate, Chinese foods (soy sauce, water chestnuts) hit lows in February. Frozen foods see best prices in March. Ham, eggs, baking supplies and Easter items are best bought in April. BBQ sauce, marinades and salsa are prime for May.
5. Coupons – Find the coupons in newspapers, internet printable coupons, coupon clippers, store ads, magazines and, for things like Children’s Advil, your pediatrician’s office. Ask for the coupon flyers your friends and family don’t use or, if you have a particular brand or even restaurant you want, hit the company website for special discounts.
Ways To Save:
- How to Shop at Whole Foods without Spending your Whole Paycheck
- 5 Ways to Increase Your Savings at Target
- 7 Ways to Save Money Without Couponing
- How to Get the Most out of your Sam’s Club Membership