Last time my daughter was here, she shared when and how she decided to take control of her money. (you can read her first post of this series HERE) Today she is giving her tips on using coupons.
I used to hate using coupons because it felt like a long process of finding the ones I needed, calculating the best buy, and waiting through the dreaded issue of a cashier having issues scanning them. However, I decided to give them a go again last month, and we will have saved almost $50 by the end of this month with coupons alone. The easiest way to find relevant coupons is through the mail. Some larger companies will send coupons directly to you, not as part of a newspaper advertisement. Our local Ford dealership, for example, sends me a coupon every few months for a discounted oil change that is the same price as most other places nearby, but their offer includes a multi-point inspection for my car and a few other services that I would otherwise need to pay for. I might pay the same price for the oil change, but I am saving on car maintenance.
My main destination for coupons is www.coupons.com. They have a random assortment of coupons ranging on topics from food to beauty products to household items. I can usually find at least 10-15 when I look at the website every week or two, and the coupons are set to have an expiration date of one month after you print them. So you have a while to use them. They also bring over coupons from other sites, such as P&G coupons, which cover brands such as Bounty and Charmin. The savings is not always massive. Sometimes it’s only $0.25 off of a pack of Bounty napkins or $1.00 off a 12-count of toilet paper, but it adds up if you do it regularly. One major downside is that the program it uses to print the coupons requires you to install the Coupon Printer program on your computer, and—this is just awful—it only seems to work on Internet Explorer. The time spent waiting on IE to load is worth the savings to me, though. P&G has their own coupon website as well for major brands of household items that we use, but, as I said, they are often imported to coupons.com. I usually double-check it anyway just to be certain that I haven’t missed anything.
Don’t forget to check your actual products for coupons as well. Chili’s restaurant came out with frozen meals a while back (yes, they are delicious), and, to encourage people to continue to buy their products, they printed inside the meals’ boxes a coupon for $1.00 off the purchase of two of their frozen meals. Again, it’s not a large savings, but I liked the meals and was going to buy them anyway. That’s the important thing to keep in mind—if you are going to buy the products anyway, especially if you can save by buying items like household goods in bulk, you might as well take the time to save some money in the process. I have found coupons for products in frozen meal boxes, dry goods boxes, cat litter tubs, cat food sacks, and tons of other places. Companies realize that you have choices, and they want to give you another reason to use their brands. I don’t know about you, but letting me save a few bucks on something I already buy makes me like a company all the more.
If you are lucky enough to live in an area with stores that offer discounts, rewards, or specific coupons, by all means use them for all they are worth! We frequent two stores when it comes to groceries and household goods: Target and HEB. Target is nation-wide, and we use them primarily for their pharmacy. We have always had luck with friendly and knowledgeable pharmacists at Target, to the point that they know us by name when we walk up and we know more about our their personal lives than we probably should. So we do our prescriptions exclusively at Target, which comes with a great rewards program. After filling so many prescriptions, we receive a 5% off coupon for an entire purchase. As far as I know, there are no restrictions on what the coupon can be used for. So we occasionally use those for larger purchases if it will save us money in the long run, or we use it for a few small items, like vitamin waters that are practically the same price there as anywhere else, and save that extra 5%. For everything else, we shop at HEB, which has a fantastic coupon program. I’m sure they have a system to it, but it looks random—there are yellow coupons for savings or deals, i.e. buy a pack of hotdogs and get a pack of buns for free, hanging all over the store for particular products. Sometimes you can save several dollars just with the in-store offers. However, if you are using conflicting coupons that you have printed from a website or manufacturer, do the math and see which coupon actually saves you more money. Watch the fine print as well. I’m not sure where the people on those coupon-crazed shows shop, but all of my coupons have small print that say they cannot be combined with other offers and the total savings cannot exceed the value of the product. In other words, don’t plan on being one of those people who use multiple coupons and end up having the store pay them at the end of the transaction.
You might be like I was a few years ago and wonder if all of this coupon…let’s call it hoarding because I feel like that’s how I am right now…if all of this coupon hoarding really saves that much in the end. Take our last shopping trip as an example. We were sick last weekend and so missed our regular two-week shopping trip as well as ran out of nearly everything before we made it to the store this week. By everything I mean we had a box of tissues, a twelve-pack of toilet paper, and half a twelve-pack of Dr. Pepper left. That was it. We walked into the store with 18 coupons, 15 of which we used, and we added three coupons along the way thanks to in-store coupon savings. We stocked up on enough meats, meals, dry goods, lunch items, and snacks to last us at least two more weeks, maybe three if we are thrifty. We bought more household goods than normal, but I had several big savings coupons, and household items won’t go bad. As long as you have the storage and available funds, buying them in bulk and saving is a good scheme—and I don’t mean buying them in bulk at Sam’s where you pay a membership fee, which can sometimes be more expensive than it’s worth. When we checked out, I looked at the receipt to see that we had saved a penny on brand savings (a penny here, a penny there), $1.55 on in-store savings, and $23 on manufacturer coupons. In total we saved $24.50, which was more than 10% of our total bill, and we walked out with a free comb—I needed one for my cat, but the in-store coupon saved more than the value of the comb; so I bought a two pack for $1 more that included a new one for me, which I actually needed, and with the coupon came out at the cost of a single comb so it was like getting the second for free—and a free air freshner plug-in. That coupon clearly stated that buying a refill pack came with a free Glade air freshner plug-in. We already use them in the apartment around the cats’ litter boxes and needed refills, so why not use a coupon and get a free plug-in to keep another room smelling fresh? With the $11 we saved on our last visit, that took us to $35 in total savings on groceries and household items. After taking my car to the Ford dealership next week and receiving a little free maintenance, we will be at about $50 a month in savings or free services. Add that up over a year, and we’re looking at almost $600 in savings in 2015!
And just in case you need one more incentive to start couponing: I haven’t stepped foot in a Wal-Mart in almost a year. I am spending the same amount or less than when I shopped there, and the food quality is also better. I don’t know about you, but that is a lifelong dream come true for me.
Kudos to my daughter for saving when and where she can! She’ll be back next week talking about advertisement & restaurant offers.
Y’all have a great day! Later gators!