Do coupons really save money? No really, I'm being serious. They always end up costing me me more. Help? I tried the coupon craze and ended up raising my grocery bill by almost $200 a month. We are very frugal generally and I am good at feeding our family of 4 on about $400-$500 a month, (with diapers), but I started couponing and my budget went way up.
By Jae Rue
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I have always found that buying the store brand is lower cost than buying more expensive brands using coupons. As a whole I'm not that fussy about brands. There are a few brands that I won't switch out, but not too many. Also it does make a difference in the canned items, if I am fixing something just for us, or for company.
I can't afford to buy fresh very often. My kids were out of diapers before the disposables got real popular. Now I do so little baking that if I have to bake a few cookies I use a recipe calling for a cake mix, instead of buying flour, shortening and sugar. Cakes and brownies are made from mixes and I use canned frosting.
I am 72 years old. One thing I have noticed about coupons that come in the Sunday paper and magazines, the last couple years is that they don't have near as long before they expire and on a lot of them you have to buy more than one of the item and a person might not have room to store two or more of the item.
All in all for most products I don't think couponing is that much of a savings, considering the time that some of the extreme couponers spend doing it and the storage they need and then keeping all of their excess products dust free.
I think it depends on how you shop-if you always and ONLY buy store brands and generics, then coupons aren't going to save you money. But I found whilst raising my family in the US that there are some generic and store brands my family wouldn't touch even if I stood there trying to force them. Those 'untouchable' things sat on the pantry shelf and went to waste-which is not a savings!
So I learned early on to only use coupons (here in the UK they are called vouchers) for brand items I already buy regularly, or for something I'd like to try.
For example, Boots (a drugstore and a pharmacy) has a voucher on right now for a skin care line that I think I might want to use but it's a little pricey. With the voucher I can get a pre-packaged set of trial size (generous trial sizes over here, almost the same size as the regular products) at nearly 40% off.
40% off is not a bad savings on something I want to try, and if I don't like the skin care line I'm not out a lot of money.
Also, I buy kitchen roll (paper towels), my preferred brand is called Plenty (identical to the Brawny brand I preferred in the US) and I can usually find a 50p off voucher that all stores accept including the Pound Stretcher chain (very similar to Dollar General and Family Dollar type stores).
Now, Pound Stretcher already sells Plenty 6-packs for 50p less than the grocery chains, and with the 50p off voucher I get something I buy regularly for a whole pound less! That's a huge savings on a brand product I buy regularly.
I could go on, whilst raising the kids in the US I tried the store brands of peanut butter and soups-ick, ick, ick. Keeping my eye out for coupons on those items really helped keep my grocery budget in line. Same with instant oatmeal packets, the generic really is awful but the brand is delicious-again, coupons were a huge help.
But interestingly, the whole family tried store and generic brands of cold breakfast cereals and loved them, so they could have the frosted corn flakes, etc, at a considerable savings over the brands even if I had a coupon for the brand cereal.
To be frugal, you have to be smart. Why woud you ever pay more than you normally would pay for an item just because you have a coupon, then expect to save money? If you really want to save money, you don't use coupons just because you have them. Coupons are usually for name brand products that cost more to start with.
Proper thrifty use, is to figure out the price of an item using a coupon vs the price of the item you usually buy; then you buy the cheaper item. If your store doesn't double the coupon value or give the additional amount over the price of the item, has higher prices to start with, or if you live in an area that has coupons with lower value amounts (yes, this differs depending on where you live), you will never save the money the people on TV do. You simply cannot expect to save money just because you are cutting coupons.
Just found this excellent 4 part couponing for beginners' video (long winded but you'll learn a lot):
Now for my personal long winded suggestions - LOL ;-)
Check out your grocery markets and pharmacy websites (or ask about it at their store courtesy counters) who have store rewards cards because most have online downloadable coupons and special deals for items they track that you normally purchase on your store reward card along with the regular weekly sales if you use their rewards card. For example, I have a Safeway grocery store rewards card and signed up online for their 'Just4u' program. I receive email alerts weekly for new deals for three categories; coupon center, personalized deals and store specials plus my personalized savings list that I can print out (or send to self as an email) showing all of my chosen items with details about them.
Oh, and sometimes they even offer items you've not used for free to entice you just to try that product. The great thing about using this program is that there are many times I've received a discount on a particular item that was not only on store sale that week but also had a coupon AND a personalized deal so ended up receiving all three discounts. For just this Safeway program alone I save a minimum of 25% and up to 50% every single week!
One more thing is that expiration dates for some of the items you download on your card will be good for up to three and four months! Oh, and you don't have to use only the downloaded coupons; you can also used clipped coupons; so let's say you have a downloaded and a clipped coupon for the same item; just buy two if it's something you use and won't expire before you can use it.
Only use coupons for items and brands you already use and only buy items in bulk that you know for certain you will use by the expiration date and have the room to store them.
If there is a 10 for $10.00 store deal look at the details on the isle tag for that item because most of the time you do not need to purchase a total of 10 to get the $1.00 per item sale.
Keep an eye out for 'buy one get one free' or 'buy two get one free' (etc) deals for items that you use.
Don't forget to look at the coupons that are printed out and given to you with your sales receipt at both the markets and the pharmacies. Sometimes there are ones for 'purchase $10.00 and get $5.00 off on your next visit' and be sure to check the expiration date (and fine print at the bottom of possible item exclusions) and use the coupon because that's $5.00 of free product!
Items like vitamins, soap, etc, etc, etc: I need to take a lot of vitamins because of emphysema, osteoporosis, medications and diminished immune system. I pick up store flyers at Walgreen's every Sunday morning for their general weekly deals (you can also view them online first if you don't want to make the trip there). When I know I am getting low on a certain vitamin it never fails that there will be a buy one bottle get one free within a couple of weeks. I don't worry about the brand they are offering because most of them are exactly the same.
Okay, I could go on and on but between the advice I and what others have already shared here and those videos at the link you're on your way to great savings! Happy Shopping :-)
PS - Don't bother to purchase coupons online and don't even print free ones from online unless you have an awesome printer that uses hardly any ink because otherwise you're really not saving! And if you don't usually read the newspaper why not ask neighbors who do receive it if they would donate the coupon flyers to you!
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