How to use coupons
What are coupons? Coupons are the little piece of paper that you hand to the cashier at a store and they subtract money off your purchase. Many people save a lot of money every year using coupons. The key to saving money with coupons is to understand how to use them.
The main reason that people use coupons is to save money on their purchases from various stores. By saving money people that coupon are able to save for big ticket items without depriving themselves of the items that they need to survive; they are able to use the money normally spent on staples to purchase better quality food and non food items and they can try new products while not spending extra money on items they make not like. For example, my husband and I wanted to purchase a van for our family, but we did not have the money to purchase a van. Unless we made some serious cutbacks we would not have enough money to purchase a van. By doubling our couponing efforts and not being brand loyal we were able to save the money needed to pay cash for a used van.
There are many ways to obtain coupons. While some ways may cost money it is almost always worth the minimal investment. Coupons are available in most Sunday papers, with the exception of holiday weekends. There are two main coupon inserts on Sunday’s, Vlassis, now called Red Plum, and Smart Source. Sometimes there are different inserts such as General Mills or Proctor and Gamble, which usually comes once a month. Red Plum and Smart Source are the most common inserts. A great way to obtain coupons from the Sunday paper while not spending more money purchasing additional papers is to ask friends and family for their unused coupons, you will be surprised how many people do not use coupons and would most likely throw them away had you not asked for them. Another way to obtain coupons is to look for the blinking red lights on plastic machines while walking through a grocery store. These machines spit out coupons for products usually located in the vicinity of the machine. Since the coupons come out of a machine with a red blinking light, this type of coupon is normally called a “blinkie”. One more way to obtain coupons is from “tear pads”. “Tear pads” are pads of coupons located in grocery stores. These coupons are normally located in the vicinity of the product they are for. The last most common type of coupon is the “peelie”. A “peelie” is a sticker type coupon that is located directly on a product. You must purchase the item the “peelie” is on to obtain this type of coupon.
Manufacturer’s love to hear what consumers think of their products, this is one of the reasons why many products have a website or toll-free number printed on them where you can contact the manufacturer and tell them if you like or dislike their product. Once you contact the manufacturer they usually send coupons for their product. While some manufacturers may send free product coupons others may send money off coupons. Many people do not even think of this as a way to get coupons, however if you want the hard to find high dollar value coupons they are usually obtained straight from the manufacturer.
Once you have coupons is when the fun begins. I like to think of this portion of couponing as preparing for battle, the battle is between me and the store. Who will win? Will I obtain all the items I need and spend very little of my money or will the store get most of the money I have budgeted for shopping?
The next step in couponing is to figure out what coupons you have and what coupons you need. This can be very tricky. Do not automatically throw away a coupon for a product or brand you do not normally use. Just because a coupon is not for the specific brand that you use does not mean that it is not a good coupon. You should prepare a list of items that you need to buy, items that you will need to buy in the near future and then a list of items you like to always have on hand. Now look through the coupons you have gathered and compare them to your lists. Is shampoo on any of your lists? If so then cut out and save all the shampoo coupons regardless of brand. Coupons for items you do not purchase, such as pet food coupons if you do not have pets, should be set aside for later. After completing this step you should have coupons that match up with most items on your lists. This would also be a good time to make a short list of items that are on your lists; however you do not have coupons for. This last list will be instrumental in obtaining coupons in the future, since you can contact the manufacturers of these items and request coupons.
Once the lists and the coupons are semi-organized, now is the time to compare your list and coupons to the sale ad for your local store. These generally come out in the Sunday and Wednesday newspapers, however, they are often offered for free in the store itself. If you do not get sale ads in the mail or in the newspaper, I recommend stopping by the store itself to grab one or seeing if it is available online before going any further. An important fact to remember is the items on the best sale are generally on the cover or front page of a sales ad. These are sometimes called “loss leaders”. “Loss leaders” are an item a store is willing to take a loss on to get you into the store with the hopes that you will purchase other items while you are in the store. Compare these “loss leaders” with your lists and your coupons. The goal is to match up “loss leaders” with your coupons. For example, if you are in need of shampoo and you notice it in the stores sale ad that shampoo is on sale for $2 and you have a coupon for that brand shampoo that gives you $1.50 off then that shampoo would only cost you $0.50 after the sale combined with your coupon. You should continue down your list comparing the sale ad with your list and the list of coupons. In the beginning it is recommended that you make a list if the brands that are on sale and the coupons that you have that match up with those sales so you do not forget them when you get to the store. The reason why you made three (3) list in the beginning, the list of items you need now; the items you will need in the near future and the items you like to always have on hand, is to make yourself aware of possible great deals on things you either need now or will shortly need. Let me go back to that shampoo example. Most people use shampoo, bald people are the exception not the rule here. If you do not need shampoo now, but will shortly need it or do not have a back up or an extra bottle of shampoo in your house, it may be a good idea to purchase it while you are able to get it for $0.50. The sale price is $2.00 and the coupon is for $1.50 so you are spending $0.50 on something that without a coupon would have cost you $2.00 or more if not on sale when you needed it.
Now go to the store and use your lists and your coupons to purchase the items you have marked down. Go ahead and purchase the items on your now needed list that you do not have coupons for also. Couponing is not about depriving yourself. If there is a product that you love and would never use something else than by all means purchase that product, but it could possibly make your savings reduced in the end. Plus, who knows by trying different brands you may find another favorite.
Once you get to the register the most important part of couponing happens. Do not forget to hand your coupons over to the cashier. Most cashiers will accept coupons at the beginning of a transaction; however they will scan all of your items before deducting the coupons. This gives you a little time if you forget to hand them over right away.
The best part of couponing happens once all of your items are scanned, bagged and the cashier has scanned all of your coupons. It is the cashier telling you what your total is after coupons. There are not many other legal feelings, family and significant other moments excluded, than having the total owed to the store drop significantly.
Once you get home and put away your groceries sit down and decide how much time it took you to get ready to plan the shopping trip. How long did it take to get and organize your coupons; look through the ads; make your lists and how much longer did it take you in the store? Now how much did you save? Once you know those numbers take the time you spent completing everything connected to using the coupons in the store and divide it by the money you saved to see how much your time was worth. Is it worth it? Remember once you get the hang of couponing the amount of time required to prepare for a trip will decrease and the amount you are saving will increase meaning your time is worth more. It is not unusual for people to get discouraged at first. However, if you could spend two (2) hours, in the beginning, looking through coupons and sale ads and making lists and have that effort save you Fifty Dollars ($50.00) at the grocery store would you not do it? It would be the equivalent of making Twenty Five Dollars ($25.00) per hour. Think what you could do with that extra Fifty Dollars ($50.00). You could buy new shoes, purchase more groceries, buy more fruits and veggies, buy new clothes, go out and have a nice dinner or save that Fifty Dollars ($50.00) and add it to the savings next time you go shopping and then eventually take a trip or buy a new television or a car, whatever your heart desires. All of this is possible by using a few little pieces of paper with writing on them that many people just throw away as a waste of time.This article is the property of Karen Perea. Duplicating this article is prohibited without permission from Karen Perea. If you desire to use this article anywhere else, please request permission and provide a link back to http://www.consumerqueen.com