Coupon shopping doesn't have to be as intense as you see on TV. Shows like Extreme Couponing give an example of people who have taken their coupons seriously, stocking up on 50 rolls of toilet paper at once because they were on sale. While there's nothing wrong with this lifestyle, it's also not feasible for everyone.
However, there are ways to get the most from your coupons without ending up with too much stuff!
1. Write A List
This sounds SO simple, but find the coupons you want to use in advance, write a list, and then make it a quick trip. The longer you're in the store, the more likely it is you'll fall victim to more "deals" that will end up costing you more money than you would have saved.
2. Know Your Price Points
Just because you can save $2 on something, doesn't mean you're saving money. Weird, right? Often times, companies will hike up the prices of a product and then offer a "deal" which isn't a deal at all. For example, your normal yogurt may cost $5 on an average day. However, slowly, the prices will start to increase and the price could go up to $7.50. When the company then comes out and offers $2 off, you're still paying $5.50 for yogurt.
Money Crashers has a list of the price points everyone should know:
- The Average Price: how much do certain items cost on any given day? What's the lowest you've seen the price without a coupon? Knowing these prices for pantry staples will help make sure you're not ripped off.
- The Maximum Price: this is for personal knowledge. What is the most you will ever pay for a certain item, without a coupon? Knowing this will stop you from buying it when the price is too high.
- The Deal Price: what price do you want to pay for an item when you have a coupon? If the price and coupon add up to your deal price, then buy enough to last until the next sale.
- The Stock-Up Price: this price means it's the lowest you've ever seen an item at, and you should probably stock up on it. Buy as many as you can and take advantage of the deal!
3. Use Your Overage
When your coupons end up being for more than the item is on sale for, it produces an overage. Most stores won't give you cash back for the overage, but will allow you to apply it towards other items in your cart. You're basically giving yourself mini coupons for the items that were not on sale.
4. Order Matters
When you're giving the cashier your coupons, make sure you present them in the proper order. Price minimum coupons ($5 over a purchase of $20, etc.) should be presented first, as the other coupons in your order may end up negating the price minimum because of the deals. A lot of stores will apply the coupons correctly, regardless of the order, but it's always better to be safe than sorry.
5. Get Multiples
If you are buying two boxes of cereal, use two cereal coupons! You'll find that a lot of online coupons can be printed multiple times, and you'll also notice that extreme couponers will either buy multiple copies of the Sunday paper, or just order the inserts directly to get a lot of the same coupon. If the deal is great, make sure you stock up and have a coupon for every item you buy.
6. Keep Them Organized
Showing up to the cashier with a handful of loose coupons not only sucks for them, but also for you. Missed expiry dates, forgotten coupons, fine print you didn't see, these can all mean your savings are lower. Some people file their coupons using alphabetical order for the generic names, like "S for Salad Dressing", while others go alphabetically by brand name, like "H for Hidden Valley Ranch." Organizing your coupons by expiry date, helps as well. Using a binder is usually helpful to keep everything in check!
7. Know The Policies
Every store has a different policy for coupons, and it's important to know them. Make sure you know these basic policies for the store you're shopping at:
- Price Matching: does your store match sale prices, as well as taking coupons on top of it?
- Competitor Coupons: some stores will take coupons from their main competitors, but it's not always clear who they count as their competitors.
- Rain Checks: some stores will not issue rain checks for sale items, or will not take your coupon once the rain check is filled.
8. Stack Coupons
If you have a $1 coupon from Target for a $2 tube of toothpaste, and that same brand of toothpaste is offering a $1 coupon, then you can use both and get a free tube of toothpaste! Some coupons will also allow you to stack the same one over and over. Just make sure you check to see what the policy is.