My non-extreme coupon strategy
It’s great to be back in the swing of things. Last week, after I launched my e-book, we took a mini vacay to visit family and friends in the hubs’ home state of Michigan. Now I’m rested, re-energized and ready to get back to business.
As I’m sure you’re aware, I love decorating, organizing and doing DIY projects. I could blog about them all day long! But with a website name like “Living Rich on Less,” I think it is only fitting that I share my strategies for saving money on other things, too, like groceries. So the time has arrived for me to talk about my coupon strategy.
Let me start by admitting that, yes, I am one of those crazy ladies who lugs the big coupon binder with her into stores. I regularly use coupons to save money on everything.
I use a common three-ring binder filled with clear, plastic sleeves. I prefer eight-pocket sleeves (you’re viewing nine-pocket ones because I mistakenly ordered them first). Eight-pocket sleeves allow coupons to fit nicely with minimal folding necessary.
My binder is broken up into the following alphabetized categories: baby/kid, baking, beauty/hygiene, beverages, breakfast, cans, cleaning, fridge/dairy, frozen, household, meat, meds, paper/plastic, pasta/potatoes/rice, pet, produce, sauces/dressings/condiments, and snacks. I have a little side pocket where I keep restaurant and non-food store coupons.
After I create my shopping list, I transfer the coupons I will use that trip into a separate mini coupon wallet. This helps with efficiency at the store. (I need all the help I can get with two kids in tow.)
At this point, you may be thinking, “Big binders? Coupon wallets? Alphabetization? I thought this was supposed to be non-extreme.” I swear; I am definitely not an extreme couponer like the ones you see on TV. My system is pretty efficient and low-maintenance. Here’s why:
- I only purchase one Sunday newspaper – two at the most – per week for the coupon inserts. Any other coupons I get are handouts from people or free ones I find online. Tip: There are usually never coupon inserts in newspapers on holiday weekends, due to the change in shopping patterns during these times. The weekend prior to a holiday often has multiple coupon books and the weekend after is pretty good, too.
- I only spend a total of three to four hours per week clipping and organizing coupons and preparing my shopping list. (I match up my coupons with the items in my stores’ weekly sales fliers.) This may sound like a lot of time, but extreme couponers are known to spend 20-40 hours per week doing the same. Often, I take a week off and shop the following week. Tip: I try to purchase items only when they are on sale in the store and when I have coupons for them, not after I run out of them at home.
- I do not keep a large stockpile of groceries. I have a few shelves in my basement where I store extras like toilet paper, paper towels, cereal and toothpaste. Tip: I only use coupons for things I use regularly or really want to try and I don’t get duped into using low-value coupons on higher-priced items. Extra tip: Some of the products I tend to get the deepest discounts on include cereal, laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, shampoo/conditioner, razors, pasta and sauce, frozen pizza, yogurt and snack foods.
- I do not travel around to a lot of stores. I simply don’t have the time. I have my favorites – Dollar Tree, Giant Food Stores and Rite Aid are my top local picks right now. Tip: Giant offers double coupons every day, redeemable gas points and, when I use Giant gift cards purchased at my daughter’s school, five percent goes back in my pocket through Giant’s Cash for Causes program. (They have an A+ School Rewards program that earns money for our school, too.) I also love Rite Aid’s +UP Rewards program. I get money loaded onto my store discount card by purchasing certain products. When I match +UP items with coupons, I can save big. For example, I was recently able to score all of this stuff completely free using coupons and +UP rewards (I got $6 loaded back onto my card, too):
Matching coupons with store deals has allowed me to keep my grocery bill under $75 per week for our family of four (plus a dog). That includes all of our toiletry, cleaning and paper products. I would estimate that couponing saves me at least 30-40 percent overall on all my purchases. And our family gets to enjoy a lot of “top shelf” stuff in the process.
That’s my coupon strategy in a nutshell. Do you have any coupon tips? I would love for you to leave a comment and share them.