I frequently encounter people who don’t use coupons because they feel like it isn’t worth their time. If you’ve run the numbers and found this to be the case, I respect that. Coupon use, like all areas of personal finance, is a personal choice and not everyone will find it beneficial or to their liking.
However, I find that the “not worth my time” attitude is most often the case with people who clip only the occasional coupon and don’t take the time to really figure out how coupons work and how to get the most from them. Those of us who use them regularly understand their value and we’ve also learned how to get the most out of them. Here are some tips to get the most from coupons.
1. Get organized. Coupons are only useful if you know what you have and where. Coupons randomly stuffed in drawers or wallets rarely get used. Get and use some sort of organizational system. Some people use recipe boxes or binders with sheets of pockets like those designed for baseball card collections. I prefer a small expanding file. It’s the length of a business envelope with expandable pockets inside. I can label each pocket to better sort my coupons. Figure out the categories that make sense to you and sort your coupons accordingly.
2. Regularly weed out expired coupons. Unless your stores are kind enough to take expired coupons, weed out the old ones at least once a month. Otherwise you’ll be frustrated and slowed down in the store by all the coupons you can’t use.
3. Try to shop somewhere that doubles coupons. Many grocery stores double or triple coupons up to a certain amount. This really increases your savings. Look for special promotions where the store doubles or triples more coupons per order or higher dollar value coupons. Know your prices though because some stores that double coupons charge much more than those that don’t, meaning that you could shop somewhere else and save more money, even without the doubled coupons.
4. Know what coupons can be combined. Many stores allow you to combine coupons issued by the store (“store coupons”) with those issued by the manufacturer (“manufacturer’s coupons”) which are the ones you get from the newspaper. This means that if you have a store coupon for $1.00 off and a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item for $1.00 off, then you can combine them and save $2.00. Not all stores allow this, so ask if the policy isn’t obvious.
5. Match your coupons with the sale flyer. When you get the weekly sales flyer, take some time to flip through your coupons to see what’s on sale that you have coupons for. Using coupons on sale items is a great way to increase your savings. This is how many people end up getting items for free.
6. Use your store loyalty card with coupons. If your store offers a loyalty program, combine the loyalty sales with your coupons to further maximize your savings. At my store, many of my transactions work like this: The item is $1.00 off for everyone in the sale flyer. Loyalty card holders (that’s me) save an additional $.50. So I’m up to $1.50 in savings. Then I have a coupon for $.50 off, which is doubled to $1.00. Thus, I end up saving $2.50 on the item.