Monday, November 17, 2014

My Fabulously Frugal Guide to Coupons!

Grocery Shopping on a Budget!

So, I've been couponing for years now.  I'm not only addicted, my budget mandates that I do everything necessary to save pennies where I can.  Otherwise, there's no splurges, no Birchbox, no dates with Hubby, and no treats for Puppy.  While most of the information here is geared towards grocery shopping, these basic principles can be applied to shopping for basically anything!

I know that there are entire blogs devoted to couponing, and they are helpful.  However, they can also be totally overwhelming to any who's a novice or who doesn't want to keep a notebook full of pieces of paper.  These tips are NOT for Extreme Couponers.  My tips are for those of us who simply want to be careful with our dollars and cents.

Step #1 Finding Coupons

There are two major sources of paper coupons:
1. Your Sunday Newspaper
2. Online sites

Yes, you're going to have to cut some coupons...


Sunday Newspaper Tips: I've lived in Atlanta Metro, Chicago Area, and San Francisco Bay.  In all three places I've been able to find Sunday-only newspaper deals.  (Yes, even out here in SF where the Sunday paper usually costs $4+delivery fee/ week I found a deal.  I pay $3/week.)  Unless you actually read the paper everyday, this is one of the best ways to get coupons.  Make sure you get a hefty paper like the SF Chronicle or Chicago Tribune; they have better coupon inserts!
Online Coupon Tips:  I recommend the following sites for general coupons - coupons.com, smartsource.com, commonkindness.com, and redplum.com.  Target also has its own coupon site for Target store coupons (this is important).

Step #2: Sorting Coupons

I highly recommend sorting your coupons.  Since I've been doing this for years, I've figured out a sorting system that works for me.  I recently upgraded my coupon book, and tweeked my categories, but the idea remains the same.  I sort based on grocery aisles - dry goods, snacks, baking, frozen, cold, cleaning & paper products, beauty & health (which have subcategories using unfolded coin wrappers), Target-specific coupons and restaurants.

Labels, labels, labels!

Labeling is vital.  If you can't lay your hands on your coupon quickly, you won't use it.

Step #3: Electronic Goodies

Target has the Cartwheel app.  My local Safeway (grocery store) has a program called Just4U, which gives me special sales that aren't on the shelves.  I go into more detail here about all of these additional ways to make your coupons + sales stretch even farther.

Step #4: Know Stores' Coupon Policies

Did you know that at Target you can use one manufacturer's coupon, one Target store coupon, and one cartwheel discount per item?  Take a look at the picture below:

The manufacturer's coupon requires I purchase two, so I would print a second Target coupon before cashing in on this deal.  Hubby loves making pumpkin pie, so this will be coming home this week!

2 Cans of Libby's Pumpkin on Sale = $3.20 (before tax)
Value of Target Coupons = $1.10
Value of Manufacturer's Coupon = $.75
Value of Cartwheel Discount (5% off after coupons) = $.07
Total Cost of 2 Cans of Libby's Pumpkin = $1.28 (or $.64/each)

Step #5: Planning

I recommend stacking your deals.  Keep an eye on your sales ads in the Sunday paper.  Know when your favorite stores change their sales.  Target has new sales on Sunday.  Safeway has new sales on Wednesday.  Pair your coupons with sales and any other deals/ discounts you can find.  This will help your money stretch as far as possible!

Step #6: The Mindset

Through years of couponing I have adopted a helpful mindset about grocery shopping in such a fabulously frugal way.  I use coupons to ensure that there are new types of food that come into our home.  Hubby gets bored with food types easily, so this is a helpful way of changing our diet and not getting stuck in a rut.  The challenge, though, is that sometimes the foods that go on sale with good coupons are frozen, processed, etc.  I help balance this conundrum by researching food quality in canned vs. frozen vs. fresh produce.  This helps me ensure that no matter what other items come home, we have healthy fruits and vegetables in our diet.

At the end of the day, couponing requires balance.  There are weeks when life is too crazy to cut and sort coupons, search through the sales, and strategize my grocery shopping plan.  However, when I can, our budget thanks me profusely.  It takes discipline to keep up, but I've managed to shave hundreds of dollars off our living expenses, which is especially helpful in the land of "everything is so ridiculously expensive."

Participate!

Was this post helpful?  How might you incorporate some of these ideas into your daily shopping routines?

What are your strategies for saving money?  Do you use coupons?  Do you hit up sales?