When Josh and I first got married, I did a small amount of couponing, but gave it up after a few months, not because I don’t like saving money, but just because I didn’t have the time I suppose, being in college at the time.
But, with Josh’s recent decrease in pay since his car accident, we have a lot less money each month to work with, despite getting more money for food stamps. We have medical bills and credit cards to pay, on top of rent and gas and tithing and everything else. It’s tight to say the least.
So I took another, more serious look at my couponing, and realized I had some false beliefs about coupons in the past. Here are some couponing myths and miconceptions I had.
Coupon and shopping beliefs that I had previously:
1. You don’t need to get the Sunday paper to coupon. There are plenty of on-line websites plus the RedPlum insert that comes in the mail every week to make up for not having the Sunday paper. Plus, the newspaper costs money.
2. Buying in bulk or larger sizes is always the better deal.
3. Just buy generic. It will be cheaper anyways!
4. I don’t have room nor money to stock up on things.
5. If I have a coupon for a product, it makes it a great deal and a must-have!
And what I have learned about those beliefs:
1. We recently subscribed to the Sunday and Thursday editions of our local paper, for a measly $4.20 a month. While I have always been skeptical and hesitant to do this, I have been blown away by how much more I am saving now! Plus, with the newspaper coupons and the coupons I get on the internet I now have multiple coupons for the same product. On-line websites have printing limits/only allow you to print it once. This would often prevent me from being able to stock-up (My belief #4).
2. I have been surprised by how untrue this can be! Often the smaller boxes of cereal (or whatever) are on sale, making it less per ounce/unit than the bulky box. Combining that sale with coupons can sometimes even get the price of a small item under a dollar (or less!). Though it means I have to buy more smaller boxes/containers in order to get the same amount as a larger box/container, I often do not have to pay so much up front. Jumbo boxes and such always cost more, even if it is cheaper per ounce. So while it is a better deal, it is not always easy to fork over the better deal price when you only have so much to spend that day!
3. The wonderful thing about coupons is that you don’t have to buy generic brands. While store-brands are certainly always less than their advertised and labeled counterparts, store-brand rarely go on sale or discount. Name-brand products go on sale more often and when those sale prices are combined with good coupons, you can be scoring better quality products for less than the generics. It means you don’t have to sacrifice your taste buds for your wallets!
4. While it is true that we don’t have a lot of cupboard space and no pantry or garage for extra storage room, we do try to stock up on things we will regularly use when the price is right, like canned goods and cereal. We also have lately been trying to stock up more on personal care items and paper products when they are on a good sale too, because we will use them. While we don’t have “food storage,” we can at least hopefully keep our cupboards stocked.
5. I fell into this trap when we were first married and I knew very little about couponing. I would foolishly see I had a coupon and assume that the coupon would make it a great deal! But, without the item being on-sale, it usually isn’t, because it’s name-brand. It’s the pairing of sale and coupons that allows you to save money. I also learned that just because I have a coupon for a product, doesn’t mean I need to use it. I have learned to only clip coupons for products that we actually use. While coupons do allow you to try out new products or name-brands for less, they shouldn’t be used as guides for your meal planning. If you or your family don’t usually get Hamburger Helper or Oreos, then don’t buy them just because you have a coupon!
I have also learned to better organize my coupons. I used to keep two stacks of coupons, paper-clipped together, one for food and one for non-food, in a pocket in my purse. But, if Josh went to the grocery store, he didn’t know I had coupons for various things and caused us missed savings. I know some extreme couponers have these enormous binders and awesome organizational tools for them (see example here), it’s a bit much for us. Fortunately, a friend of ours gave us the idea of getting a small expandable file to put our coupons in, and what a smart idea! We labeled the tabs for more sub-categories than just food and non-food, and now keep the file folder in the car so it’s with whoever is going to the store. Since it has clear categories it is easy to use and see if there’s a coupon for what you’re shopping for quickly. Brilliant!
Knowing how to use coupons:
Part of the reason I made a blog post about shopping at Kroger, is so I wouldn’t have to do it in this post. We like Kroger partly because they double coupons that are $.50 and under. This means, a $.40 off coupon becomes a $.80 off coupon. Awesome! Knowing this has changed how I shop. Instead of thinking that my “Buy 2 items get $1.00 off” coupon as better than my “Buy 1 item get $.50 off” coupon, I know that if I have two of the latter, I can get those 2 items for $2.00 off, instead of $1. That makes a big difference! Also, since digital coupons on my Kroger card do NOT double, I make sure that if I have a paper version of that coupon I use that instead when the value is lower.
Every store has different coupon policies, so it’s important to know what they do and do not allow. Some places (I don’t know which) allow you to stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons (i.e. a Target-only coupon and a P&G coupon). Some allow doubling or tripling coupons (up to certain values) and some do not.
Then there are the tricks of the coupon trade, like knowing that “Buy one get one free” coupons can be combined with a single-item coupon, because technically you are buying two, even though one is free! This can help you save even more! For example, if I have a BOGOF for cottonballs, as well as a “buy one bag of cottonballs get $.30 off” you can use both in the same transaction.
However, it is important to note that you often cannot combine coupons for the same product. For example (this one happens to me a lot), if I want to use a “Buy 4 boxes of GM cereal, get $1.50 off” as well as a “Get $.60 off a box a Cheerios” (a GM cereal), I couldn’t have one of the four be that Cheerios box. I’d have to have 5 boxes of GM cereals in order to use both of those coupons.
Knowing where to get coupons:
Besides the Sunday paper and any mailbox coupons (like the Redplum insert), there are many on-line websites that offer free coupons, like coupons.com, smartsource.com and redplum.com. I use them often. I also check out Kroger’s digital coupons. If you are a member of swagbucks.com, I often check them for coupons as well, because each coupon you use that was printed from their website gives you 10 swagbucks in return. Then there’s upromise.com (talk more about this site HERE) which offers a few grocery coupons, which if used will give you a certain percentage back to your account for college.
There also other ways of getting coupons, like e-mail mailing lists to sites like bettycrocker.com and kelloggs.com as well as liking various brands or products on Facebook. They seem limitless sometimes in where you can get them. I mean you can get them straight off the product you’re about to buy!
How I’ve done:
Since the beginning of April 2012 I have saved $57.07 using various coupons. And if you combine that with Kroger Plus Savings, we’ve saved even more.
The $4 I am spending on the newspaper is more than paying for itself. And I could’ve saved more on some of those purchases, but I just wasn’t paying enough attention to what Josh was buying when we got to the check-out line.
Saving money on food and necessities has been wonderful! We are still far away from becoming “extreme” in our couponing, but at least I finally feel like we are saving real money with all the time and effort I’ve put into it through the years.