Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Top 5 Tips to Coupon Effectively - - From MommySnack

After the question came from a reader on how to really do all this coupon saving, it got me thinking about creating this snack to discuss the most effective way to use coupons. And, of course, that prompted a Top 5 Tips list from me (anything in a list works for me). So, I thought I would share the Top 5 Tips to Coupon Effectively with you - these are all things I've been doing since I've started couponing:

Click here for more on this Snack...

  1. Know Your Store's Coupon Policies.

    You have to start with the basic rules of playing this money-saving game! This is also a tip in my Top 5 Tips to Build Your Stockpile. Store coupon policies will tell you the true value of the coupon amount listed on that coupon! You may think that the value is just what the amount listed on the coupon, but if your store doubles or triples (you lucky dog, you) then that coupon is just like having extra money! I look at my coupons like money just waiting to be redeemed, and when you know your store's policies it really is like that! For some help, here is a list that share stores who double coupons - it's not all inclusive, but gives you a good idea.

  2. Know what your family eats or uses the most of?

    I touched on this briefly in my Top 5 Tips to Build Your Stockpile. This will tell you what coupons you really need to use. If you know you regularly eat Aunt Millie's bread and Meijer's Coupon Policy will double two of the same coupons, then will the sale for B1G1 FREE cycles around, those coupons will be SWEET to use! The same is true for Health and Beauty products, whatever products you may have a brand loyalty with and you find the manufacturer publishes coupons, try to get more coupons for that sales cycle. This is a great time to buy some coupons on Ebay (or pay for someone to clip/mail you coupons) to stock up on those items you'll need the most!

    I also always shop with a list that includes these regularly used items. My list or store scenario includes the weekly shopping trip with prices on the left deducting the coupon values on the right so I have a good idea of what my total is going to be. If I ever learn how to upload an attachment here, I'll post my spreadsheet I do this with (or just shoot me an email and I'll send it to ya). It helps me to not forget any needs items, like milk or eggs, that may not have a coupon to use (gasp, I know) AND stick to my budget (which, again, I've been slackin' on lately). Also, I do hit the stores pretty much every week so I can really take full advantage of all the sales and continue to build my stockpile.

    Carrie @ Carrie's Cooking has a Master Grocery List here. This is a good resource and great idea to inventory and monitor product levels for your own home (sounds so technical, doesn't it ?!). And, Carrie's Cooking focuses on meal planning too which is another great benefit in utilizing your coupons and your stockpile too!

  3. Get some coupons!

    You need some coupons in order to being this money-savin' journey, right?! I talked briefly about where I get coupons here and that also includes a link to find the lowest newspaper subscriptions in your area (it is national). I also compiled a list of several of my favorite internet printable coupon resources here - BTW, not all stores will accept internet printable coupons so be sure to have a good understanding of their policy before you shop.

    It's really good to know your store's coupon policies and your family's product consumption habits (again, it sounds technical but it's necessary) at the same time you are getting your coupons! I say this because there may be coupons you need to purchase and remember the true value is dependent upon the store's policy. I discuss purchasing various coupons (or someone's time to clip coupons) here. One thing to remember while purchasing coupons is all of the coupon values available by region. Some regions get higher valued coupons, so it's good to reference Hotcouponworld's Coupon Database to see what value coupons are available in all regions. I discussed this in more detail at the bottom of the snack here.

    And, you need to know what inserts and acronyms all bloggers are referring to when we abbreviate, so be sure to review this Coupon Lingo snack so we're on the same page (web page that is :-). Another good resource I utilize weekly is TaylortownPreview. I talked about the site here. Be sure to review my snack and see why this helps while you're getting your coupons!

  4. Organize your coupons.

    I shared my organization method here. There is no right/wrong way in organizing, but in order to stick with couponing, it's important to find a method that works for you! This is definitely not something you want to give up on because it can save you so much money with very little effort. This method is also dependent upon how you plan to shop. I never leave home without my list or scenario for each store (as mentioned in Tip #2). I know within pennies how much I'm going to spend because I try to stay organized. This also has the super great affect of being efficient! Yes, when you're trying to get a 14-month old's little mind occupied in order to get in/out as quickly as possible, efficiency is your best friend! My motto - time = money (and less headaches from the kiddos during the shopping trip)!

  5. Keep track or follow store sales.

    I mentioned this in Tip #2, this will tell you when to "play" or use your coupon when the sale is the lowest it will go. I learned this tip from The Grocery Game. While I'm not a member anymore, it was a great resource to help me understand store sale cycles and utilize my coupons strategically - yeap, there is some strategy to this sometimes. And, I've mentioned Hotcouponworld several times because it is another amazing resource in couponing. HCW has a post dedicated to sales cycles which you can find here.

    Another tip I have on finding the sales pricing on products is to a general search at Hotcouponworld for the product name and store you'll be shopping at and see what results comes up. The ad details are almost always written in each post so you can probably find the price and date the product was priced at that amount.

    Of course, there's always keeping a price book. I started one last year and didn't keep up with it. Honestly, you'll find that the longer you coupon, you'll just remember the prices and really good sales too - and wait impatiently for them to return :-) And, don't forget if the store if out of something, you can request a rain check! Carlie @ Why Ask Why discusses the lots of coupon tips in her Coupon Class here. Definitely check out Lesson #7 on rain checks - rain checks really are your friends :-)

If you're new to couponing, just read and re-read this snack and supporting links. You will get it, I promise! The main thing is allowing time and learning to coupon effectively. You wouldn't think that is necessary with simple coupons, huh? But, honestly, there is some strategy to using coupons and in order to be strategic we have to know what we're facing at the stores and how to play SMART! :-)

If you're a long time couponer, do you have other tips you've learned along the way? Please share too. The most valuable resource is sharing as you begin or continue this money-saving journey! I still learn stuff as I'm going and I'm so thankful for the resources and amazing blogs available that are willing and as excited as I am to share and help others save money too!

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