Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lesson 10: Couponing

Financial Planning for the Recent Graduate

This lesson, like all of the ones I have written about, requires a commitment and action on your part to make it happen.  Couponing is tedious, takes lots of time, practice, and patience, but is rewarding in the long run, and will save you lots of money if you do it the right way.  It requires a small investment ($3.00 for two Sunday papers every week=$12 a month), but will pay off over time.  ALWAYS check the newspapers you get to make sure the coupons are still in there.  There are people out there that will steal the coupons out of the newspaper, leaving you out in the cold and couponless if you buy the newspapers and walk out of the store.

Like the mail-in rebate lesson, the only way you will win with couponing is if you don’t let it dictate your spending habits.  If you weren’t already going to buy that item, don’t buy it because you have a coupon for it.  You may be saving $3 on something, but unless it’s a free purchase, you’ll be paying money you wouldn’t have if you didn’t see that coupon. 

The best coupons are the ones that are applied to money off of one item.  Ex) Save $1.00 on Colgate toothpaste.  This is why I get two papers.  It’s the absolute sweetest deal when double/triple coupon week is happening, the store is doing a buy one get one free, and you have two coupons to apply to both products.  Here’s what that looks like: Colgate toothpaste is ~3.50 a tube, depending on the size.  BOGO gets you two tubes of toothpaste for $3.50, your two $1.00 coupons double TWICE because you have two coupons, which equates to $4.00 in coupons on a $3.50 purchase, giving you a credit of $.50. 

I tend to avoid the coupons that are the Save $.50 on 2 of something, because you have to buy two of the product just to get a small savings on it.  Not worth it, in my opinion, unless you were already buying that specific brand name product.  (Usually the store brand would be cheaper pre and post-coupon price anyways on coupons like this.  Anyways, let’s get to it.

Step 1: If you’re serious about doing this, sign up for Southern Savers.  I’m a huge fan of this website, and it sends you an email every day with the deals of the day.  The best part about this website is that it matches each coupon with the average price of the item the coupon applies to, showing you how much you will pay for it.  You can find tons of freebies on here, and items that will pay you to take it out of the store (meaning the coupon is worth more than the price of the product, resulting in a credit on your purchase). 

Step 2: Buy a 3-ring binder at the Dollar Tree and find some old baseball card organizers for it (yes, you’re going to look like those crazy people on Extreme Couponing), but you just smile your way on to that register as you watch the total slowly make its way down towards $0 for your purchase.

Step 3: Buy two papers at your local gas station/drug store/grocery store, go home, and begin clipping the coupons that are worth your time.  Organize them in the binder by row to match your local grocery store.  This will save you tons of time weaving in and out of the aisles. 

Step 4: Repeat step 3 until double/triple coupon week is here, or if you see a freebie after coupons on Southern Savers. 

Step 5: You get the email or see that the double/triple week is in a few days.  Game time.  If your grocery store offers electronic coupons to add to the paper coupons, add those to your rewards card and print off a list of the electronic coupons – put it in your binder and bring it with you to the store.  Get. There. Early.  Whatever time the double/triple coupons start, you can guarantee that the couponing crazies will empty the shelves of the items that will be free/credit their purchase before the general public gets there.  I’m talking if the deal starts at 6:00 am, be there at 5:50 and be ready.  It’s like a tame Black Friday with grocery carts when the store opens. 

There’s really no secret to couponing successfully, which is what was so ironic about my friends saying “teach me your ways”. Know your local grocery store’s coupon policy before going in there your first time so you don’t get burned.  Really, this is on you to try, experiment, fail, and if you’re patient enough, succeed. The secrets of couponing can be revealed in two words: Do it.

 Images courtesy of by Ambro, Image ID 10039145