My thoughts on couponing
For a while, I was a Coupon Queen with a very organized system for filing my coupons. Sometimes I would buy extra Sunday papers for the coupon inserts. But then I moved. And I started to notice that I wasn’t saving big bucks with coupons any more. I came up with a few explanations for this:
- By checking online, I discovered that the sales circulars for major grocery and pharmacy chains do not always contain the same items or the same sale price.
- In my new town, sometimes the items for which I wanted to combine a sale and a coupon were out of stock. I suspect that this happened a lot because some people redeemed huge amounts of coupons and bought up all the stock.
- The amounts on the coupons themselves vary by region of the country. My friends in other areas were getting higher value coupons than I was!
- I’d pull out all my high value coupons for double or triple coupon days only to find out that many of the items were not carried at the store, or that the price of the item even after double or triple the coupon value was taken off didn’t equal the price of a generic at that store or elsewhere.
- I figured out that I could often make the couponed item for much less from scratch (and without preservatives) or that I could get it cheaper if I bought in bulk at a warehouse store.
- When I bought the Sunday paper in my new town, all the inserts weren’t always there. And I couldn’t get Sunday-only delivery of the paper. Since I was no longer reading newspapers, it didn’t seem right to waste all that paper just to get coupons.
- I was spending several hours a week cutting and organizing coupons and throwing out the expired ones. I did try Coupon Mom’s system and found it helpful in avoiding having to cut and organize coupons, but sometimes the coupon values and sale prices weren’t the same in my town as they were in hers.
Have I completely stopped using coupons? No. But most of my coupons are printed out from online sources now, and I only print the coupons which I think I might use. Generally, you have to sign up, download coupon printing software and only print each coupon twice. The best sites are Redplum.com, SmartSource.com, Coupons.com and Mambo Sprouts (organic). I get some coupons direct from the manufacturer’s websites and occasionally from Vocalpoint.
Some things to keep in mind if you do coupon:
- Be sure you know and understand the coupon policy of each store which you shop at. One I shop at doubles coupons with a value of 99 cents or less, even if the coupons say “do not double.” The store pays the difference. This store only allows the use of three identical coupons in a single shopping trip. I actually like that, because it helps prevent people from not leaving any of the items for other shoppers.
- Have the coupons you will be using ready for the cashier, and make sure you’ve followed each coupon to the letter (correct size, correct number of items, not expired, etc.)
- Try to combine sales with coupons. I usually hold on to my coupons hoping for a sale and if one doesn’t come by the expiration date, I use the coupon if it will make the item I’m buying cheaper than another brand.
- Research different coupon organization systems and use the one that works for you.