Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Maximizing Your Savings With Coupons

One of my friends on Facebook recently asked me this question,

"Are there any tips you can give me regarding couponing? I cut coupons and go to Bloom when they are running triple coupon sales...but I feel like I am still not saving as much as I could be."

That's a great question and follows another question from another Facebook friend who wondered why she was actually spending more on groceries since starting to use coupons.

Coupons are a great way to help to reduce your grocery costs.  There is a bit more to it than just clipping them and handing them over, though. Of course, you can do that and still save a few dollars here and there. 

But if you want to start seeing a significant savings on your grocery bill each week, there are a few guidelines to follow that will help you save BIG!

1) Know your target prices. This is the cheapest price you've found in your area for specific items. This is the price you are willing to pay. I keep target prices for basic items in a small notebook in my purse since the old gray matter just aint what it used to be!

I will not pay more than $.49 for a can of tomatoes, $.99 for a 16 ounce bag of frozen veggies, $.99 a pound for fresh fruit and my target price for grocery store meat is $2 a pound or under, depending on what it is. Most of my target prices are based on Aldi' s low everyday prices. If it's more than what I'd pay there, I don't buy it. Of course, time and gasoline is worth something too, so if you really need a can of tomatoes and they are a few cents more at Stuff-mart and Aldi is across town and you're really behind schedule, then pay the extra cents! We all have limits when it comes to bargain shopping!

Since starting to coupon extensively, I have also set some target prices based on coupons and sales. I know that with coupons and good sales, it is totally realistic to not spend more than $1 for a box of cold cereal, $.25 for a tube of toothpaste(often free at drugstores) and frozen vegetables and condiments are often free or nearly free.

2) Base your grocery list on store sales. Whether or not you want to use coupons, buying stuff only when its on sale will save you bundles of cash. If you have coupons to bring the price even lower, it's just icing on the cake!

Almost everything goes on sale eventually. By buying at its lowest price, you'll easily save 40-50 % on your groceries each week.

3) Match coupons with store sales. Do not use a coupon just for the sake of using a coupon! You need to make sure it really is a good deal before you fill your cart. Look through the sale ads, taking note of really good prices(see #1), and matching coupons you have to the sale items. There are many coupon and saving money blogs out there help us with this. Southern Savers is the very best for the stores I shop at. There you will find weekly sale ads for various stores along with what coupons to use and how much the price will be after coupons. Only items that are really on a good sale are listed, so you know it's a pretty good deal if it's on the list. This is the site I use to make my grocery list each week; she does all the work for me! I just click the items I want, gather the coupons and head to the store!

4) Start a stockpile. When items are at their lowest prices, buy as many as you can and stock your pantry. A good rule of thumb is to buy as many as you'll need for 6-8 weeks, since that's the typical sales cycle. Most items will come on sale again so you don't need to go overboard. Some items have the best sales at specific times of the year, such as ketchup and mustard around summer holidays and canned pumpkin and fresh cranberries in the fall . You'll want to keep that in mind if you use a lot of something and maybe buy more than 6 weeks worth if it's a really good deal and has a long shelf life.

Once you start stockpiling, this is where you will start seeing the biggest savings. Because you already have food at home, you won't need to buy everything each week; only the sale items. And your stockpile will grow as you continue to buy stuff at its lowest prices. The time will come where you may even be able to take the week off from shopping and eat from your pantry!

Most weeks, I shop at Aldi for any basic items I need and then hit Bi-Lo or Harris Teeter for sale items. My cart is usually filled with the oddest combination of groceries. But that's ok, I'm not planning meals from my grocery list each week. I buy what's on super sale and plan meals from what I have on hand in my pantry and freezer.

5) Find a store with good coupon policies. Here in the South, we are blessed to have a few stores that double manufacturer's coupons every day. In my area, Bi-Lo and Harris Teeter both double coupons up to $.99 face value. If the coupon is for $.75 off, it will double to take $1.50 off. If the coupon is for $1 off, it will not double but still only take $1 off.

As you can guess, if a store doubles coupons, many good deals can be had when you are able to match a coupon with a sale! And even more good deals abound if your store occasionally offers triple coupon events!

6) Get Your Hands On More Than One Paper. Multiple coupons means multiple savings and will help you to build a stockpile. I typically buy 2-3 papers every week. You can also ask your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to save the Sunday coupon inserts for you.

Tips For Triple Coupon Sales

Before I wrap things up here, I did want to share a few tips for a successful triples shopping trip.Say that 5 times fast, would you?

First of all, follow the guidelines I listed above. Check prices and make sure it really is a good deal. Match coupons with sales. Some stores have very high regular prices, so much though, that even with a triple coupon, the price is still way higher than what I'd normally pay.

Most stores only triple coupons $.99 or less. Focus only on using the coupons that triple and leave the $1 coupons alone unless you really need something that's at a good price. Southern Savers will often have a triples list up with items that are FREE or nearly free for the store that's tripling. Here is a list for Harris Teeter triples this week!

There is usually a limit on 20 coupons tripled per customer each day. Follow the rules so that they will continue to offer triples! I usually ask if I am allowed to do a  second transaction while I am there and at some stores, this is usually ok. Harris Teeter is more strict and is linked to your VIC card so that you can only do one transaction for triples per day. You can make a trip every day during the event, if you'd like.

For triple sales, I focus on buying only what is free or nearly free. On my last triples sale, I needed pasta and had lots of coupons for that which I knew would be a good price. I also needed brown rice. This was not free, like the white rice would've been, but around $.90 for a 2 pound bag. That is a great price for something I would buy normally!

 Now I know someone is going to ask if I buy stuff I do not need just because it's free. Well, it depends what it is, but yes, I usually buy what's free! Chances are that I know someone who can use it!  Food pantries and shelters are always grateful for donations of food and personal care products and sometimes I know a friend who can use a particular product, even if I don't.

In Conclusion:

I hope that these tips will be useful and helpful to my friend and anyone who is trying to save a bit more money on groceries these days.

Please feel free to ask any questions you may have regarding coupon and sale shopping. I'm sure there's something I've forgotten to cover here. I don't have all the answers but chances are that there will be someone reading this that can answer your question if I cannot.

If you are just starting out with using coupons, it can be so overwhelming! My advice to you is to start slowly. Do the best you can and give yourself a lot of slack. It get easier as time goes by and you gain experience. Before long, you'll be teaching others how to do this!

Happy coupon shopping!


MA Goldman said...

Girl, you are awesome! I love both your sites I have visited this week!
Thanks so much for all the great tips!

Mary Ann said...

Thanks, MA! Glad you've found me here.

I guess you know I referred to you in this post.:-)