Monday, January 25, 2016

Coupons: You're Using Them Wrong

Even though I've always been a really frugal person, I didn't see the purpose in coupons for the first several years of my adult life. In fact, I thought they were stupid.

Case in point: I would see a coupon for Cheerios, but upon going to the store it was obvious that the store brand Yummy-Os (or whatever) were still cheaper, even with the coupon.

I was using them wrong.

Coupons on their own are not particularly useful, unless you're a snob brand-loyal person. Combine them with the right resources, and you will never pay for toothpaste, feminine care products, or shampoo again. You'll also get deodorant, toilet paper, and diapers for much cheaper than you could buy even the store brand.

How to Get Started Couponing

First, you need to find yourself a couponing blog. Find one for your region of the country (because deals vary from region to region.) If you live in New England, I like Krazy Coupon Lady. If you don't, you know how to Google.

Second, bookmark your blog-o-choice and check it regularly. There will be all kinds of deals: online deals and in-store deals, deals with coupons and deals without coupons.

Coupons: You're Using Them Wrong -- I used to think coupons were dumb. Turns out I was just using them wrong, and couponing blogs are my favorite way to save money now.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
My son, helping organize my coupons.
Third, get your hands on the coupon inserts that come with the Sunday newspaper. I used to get a subscription just for the coupons, but stopped because I don't like wasting money on a paper I don't read. You can ask family and friends for theirs, or strike up a deal where the local library saves them for you, or even peruse public recycling bins for newspaper inserts. I won't judge.

However you get your coupon inserts, organize them in a binder by the date they were delivered. You don't even have to leaf through them to know what's inside first; the couponing blog does that for you.

How Couponing Works

Like I said before, coupons by themselves aren't very useful. Coupons are great when they are stacked with an awesome sale and an in-store promotion. That's when you get stuff for free.

The beauty of the couponing blog is that it finds these 'stacked' deals for you, and tells you exactly when and where and how to take advantage of them.

For example, Maven of Savin' recently told me how I could get 4 tubes of Colgate at CVS for free:

  1. They were already on sale at the store
  2. I used 2 coupons from my Sunday circular binder (it told me the date of the ones I needed)
  3. CVS has a loyalty program where you get coupons to use at their store on future purchases when you buy certain products, including Colgate that week 
  4. I paid with a $100 CVS gift card I'd gotten for $86 on eBay, which I'd learned about earlier from Maven of Savin'.

What If I Still Think Coupons are Dumb?

Even if you have no interest in ever clipping a coupon, I still think any frugal person should be following a couponing blog.

Many of the deals are online deals that don't even need a coupon. My couponing blog alerts me all the time to good deals at Amazon (yesterday I bought a big case of Pampers for half the price of store brand diapers) and Staples (our source of almost-free printer paper and inexplicably, toilet paper.) At Christmas I took advantage of several great deals, including a Groupon for 50 photo cards for $10.

A Word About Extreme Couponing

If you've ever seen that show on TLC, forget about it: you will not be that person. Yes, that person is getting 247 bottles of mouthwash for "free" in a single shopping trip, but it wasn't really free because:

  1. They had to buy bulk lots of 50 coupon inserts on eBay in order to pull off those deals.
  2. They still paid sales tax on each of those bottles of mouthwash
  3. How many bottles of mouthwash can one reasonably use in a lifetime, anyway?
To be clear, I'm not an extreme couponer. I am a person who uses coupons and occasionally uses the word 'coupon' as a verb. I have a modest stockpile of stuff we regularly use in our house, and I pay less for it because I follow a couponing blog.

Coupons: You're Using them Wrong -- I used to think coupons were dumb until I figured out how to actually save money using them.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

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Unknown said...

Thank you- I feel like I needed I needed a tutorial on this. I don't know why I never bothered with coupons in the past -they always seemed complicated, somehow- but I should be saving every penny we can!

Anonymous said...

These are great tips. I really need to start doing this. Why pay more than you have to?!

PurpleSlob said...

Love it, Jenny!! I finally listened to my little! sis several years and began couponing with her. It's such a high to pull off those free deals!!

Purfylle said...

We don't get coupons here in Australia.

Queen Mom Jen said...

I am literally a coupon killer. I definitely learned a thing or two over here today. Thanks!

Erin said...

This is helpful advice - I need to definitely find a local coupon blog! Every time I've tried clipping/printing coupons - exactly what you described happens - I buy the name brand and still pay more than the store brand! :/ But I know we could use the savings! Thanks for the tips!

Lynne at The Sweet Midlife said...

This is awesome. I used to coupon a lot, and then it got overwhelming. I might have to try again!!

Jenny Evans said...

My sister-in-law is the one who introduced me!

Jenny Evans said...

I step away from time to time, but I always come back.

Rachel said...

My couponing strategy is to let my sister-in-law, who loves couponing, give me stuff that she gets for free. And sometimes I went shopping with her to push the cart. :) At least, that used to be my strategy. Then we moved to the land of no coupons (aka SE Asia) and she started Nursing School and has a 2 year old so not much couponing in this family anymore...

Unknown said...

Loved your tips! Visiting from the Monday Madness link up :)

AiringMyLaundry said...

Thank you for this! I coupon, but I'm also doing it wrong! I love saving money.

Moonofsilver said...

I have never used coupons, we buy everything organic and there are rarely coupons for that. :)

Jenny Evans said...

Not so much! I don't use many food coupons, either.

PurpleSlob said...

Oh no, Stella! :(