5 ways to get the most out of coupons

August 6th, 2008

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Coupons

I am, basically, a coupon failure.  This always happens to me – I try to use coupons and it seems like it is going fine, and then I get into my coupon groove and suddenly I am spending way more than I ever intended to.  Learn from my mistakes – here are five mistakes I’ve made and how not to make them yourself.  Hopefully this week I can improve by heeding my own words.

1.  Don’t buy things just because you have a coupon.  This is common sense but I can’t repeat it enough.    I start out with the best of intentions, but then I find myself clipping coupons for items I hardly ever buy, or for much more expensive name brands versus my usual store brand (and not amazing coupons, either).  Twenty-five cents off an item that is generally $2 more than its generic equivalent will rarely do you any good.

2.  Pair coupons with sales.  There are websites such as Coupon Mom and The Grocery Game that do this for you if you are so inclined, and I may try one eventually.  You can do this yourself as well by watching circulars and keeping all your coupons handy when you shop.

3.  Read the coupons carefully and make sure you’re buying the correct item.  Some coupons can be rather specific – and if you buy the 20 ounce item and the coupon is for the 15 ounce one, you are out of luck.  or, like me, you can mix up brands – you can’t use a coupon for Pillsbury cake frosting on the Betty Crocker one that’s on sale, even if it was an honest mistake.

4.  Don’t stock up it you can’t use it – or if you’ve already stocked up.  There will always be another sale.  Okay… almost always, at least.  When you already have 8 tubes of toothpaste at home – think carefully about adding another.  There is always more to buy!  Endless stocking up defeats the purpose of saving money, because you will never spend less.

5.  Don’t be afraid to walk away at the register.   If you’ve misread a coupon, or the store won’t accept it for some reason, tell the cashier you don’t want the item.  Don’t buy what you don’t want out of a sense of obligation or guilt.

Good luck with your couponing!  And this week I vow to improve upon my $140 disaster last week.  Everything may have been great buys, but seriously.  There has to be a limit, and I have again reached mine.

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16 Responses to “5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Coupons”

  1. Tip #1 is so true! I’ve made a few mistakes, but am now pretty rigid about only buying it if we’ll use it.

  2. Depending on the state you live in a lot of grocery stores will double the coupon value for any coupons less than 99 cents. Check to see if you have a grocery store in your area willing to double coupons.

    Forget about brand loyalty. Competing products are often just as good

  3. i have to highly recommend thegrocerygame.com. i’ve spent less money and my house is stocked with food. so we go out much less often. if you are willing to put in some planning time and are flexible about brands, it’s a great solution.

  4. Coupons, when I see them, always seem to be for food other than the basics that I buy. Where can I find coupons that are not for convenience type foods etc and more for the basics and fresh foods? Is there a site online that is easy to use to find them? I don’t buy the newspaper.

    Thanks.

  5. Like mydailydollars, I wholeheartedly agree with your first point. A couple months I briefly tried the coupon game, and I frequently found myself buying things that I was on the fence about or otherwise wouldn’t buy if it wern’t for the coupon. I was buying things I didn’t need and spending money I really didn’t need to be spending… as a result, I’m pretty wary now of the coupon game, rebate game, etc. I recognize its value, but I am not sure I really trust myself to resist the temptation.

  6. Tip #5 is only one that I find hard to keep. There were a couple of times when my family was trying to milk CVS for all it is worth and we mucked something up (like shopped after the sale ended, bought the wrong size (Tip #3), etc.) and stood at the register with that deer in the headlights look. I definitely think that Tip #5 is good advice, it is just hard to control those natural reactions in the moment.

    It seems like experience with mucking it up is necessary (for me at least) to get past those feelings.

  7. I would add that it is ok to have favorite brands of some things–I get my favorite antiperspirant–generally retail priced at just under $3. I’ve gotten it free, for 49c and for 99c. Matching coupons/sales works well. I don’t buy any other brand no matter what the coupons says cuz I’m happy with mine. Some things I’m not so picky about and I’ll use any brand. Either way I still save money and have a full pantry. I like the advice–if you’ve already stocked up– don’t buy more. I’ve seen folks with pantries that could feed an army–and they end up giving it away–giving is nice, but I wouldn’t buy stuff just to give it away.

  8. #5 – Once you say NO at the register for the first time, it gets easier. Just say you goofed and don’t want it – no problem :) And sometimes, the cashier will substitute from their little register coupon book and fix a problem or take a discount off anyway for you… depends on the store, and the seniority of the cashier, is what I’ve found.

  9. Well, I’m violating #4 somewhat, but mostly because pricing seems so volatile right now and I have access to multiple sets of coupons for our staples. Normally, I have grown to hate stockpiling, and my DH is a bit perturbed with the stacks of TP, etc. ;-)
    One other hint is to consider the order you give the coupons to the cashier, as sometimes one will negate the value of another, e.g., if you’re lucky enough to have a coupon with a general “$5 off $20″ as well as manufacturers’ coupons, unless it says otherwise, you should have them run the general first since you might go under the set value with specific item coupons. Clear as mud?? Hope it makes sense.

  10. Love these pointers. I sometimes find myself doing #1, where I feel like I need to buy something just because I have a coupon for it. It’s not a good deal if you didn’t need the product in the first place! It’s tough to realize that you will save more money by not buying a product you don’t really need, but you’re right that it really is key to smart shopping.

  11. Yes, make sure you read the fine print. Just yesterday I posted about a rebate that I completely messed up. All I needed to do was purchase 10 Kelloggs items and in return I’d receive a $10 rebate. I only bought the items that were on sale and I had coupons for everything. I cut all of the UPC codes off, marked the register receipt, addressed the envelope and then realized that everything needed to be purchased between August 6th and 30th. I purchased everything 1 day too early. What a waste!!! Yes, READ THE FINE PRINT! I felt like such a moron!

  12. I don’t even cut out or save coupons that are “bad” coupons. Saving $0.25 on TWO of something? Unless it’s a candy bar or a pack of gum, it is not worth it. Also, if I’m trying something new (there are often very good coupons on new products) I look for it at walmart because in my area, they tend to have the best deals on non-perishable type products.

  13. awesome pointers. never that frugal myself, but delving further into real estate is making me a bit thrifty and this will help :)

  14. I am definitely a coupon failure.

    I am just now getting into using coupons. I tend to forget them at home on the rare occasions I clip them.

    To fix this, I’m trying to always buy from a shopping list (then look up coupons on coupons.com to see if what I need has any discounts) then clip the coupons to the list. I may go a step further to clipping these to my reusable bags — something else I tend to forget. This would also help me cut down on plastic bags (and get used to bringing the bags, since here in Seattle we’re about to start getting charged per bag)

  15. I noticed that you are thinking about trying out The Grocery Game and that other people have recommended it. You should check out my review on its pitsfalls in my new blog http://stephanie-livingorganized.blogspot.com/

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