Couponing: Finding the little slips that lead to big savings

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By Beth Braden

Editor’s Note: September is National Couponing Month. To highlight the ways coupons can save you at the check out reporter Beth Braden will present a three part series on couponing.

My cart is practically overflowing when I finally head for the front of the store. It’s heavy too.

I’ve amassed enough items to keep me from going to the store again for at least another three weeks. We’ll have to drop in for milk and maybe fresh meat, but other than that, we’re set.

The cashier is never as excited as I am about the money I’m about to save. I’m not the only person who plays this game.

When it’s all said and done, I’ve walked out of the store with $300 worth of groceries.

I only paid $203.

What are the secrets? There aren’t really any secrets. I’ll be more than happy to tell you all I know.

Reality vs. TLC

When Extreme Couponing premiered more than a year ago, people were enamored. Look at those ladies going in there and hauling out two grocery carts full of items, and can you believe it? They only paid $40!

That’s not very realistic. And who in the world needs to buy every tube of toothpaste that the store had on the shelf? You can’t eat toothpaste for dinner.

Reality is that you can save a nice chunk of change with coupons. Saving even $40 or $50 is worth the time it takes to gather coupons. If you shop once a month, saving $40 each trip means $480 worth of savings in a year.

Gathering coupons

Email: It would be a good idea to set up an email address specifically for couponing and bargain hunting endeavors. The sheer amount of email could overwhelm your primary account, and in the event that your email address is shared with other marketers, you won’t have junk mail in your every day account.

Product Websites: Individual product websites sometimes have a promotions section where you can score several good coupons for the product. You may also find that you have the ability to sign up for an email newsletter where coupons are sometimes available. Some good examples of this are the Kellogs’ and Coffee Mate websites.

Coupon Websites: Many websites exist strictly to share manufacturer coupons with you. www.coupons.com, www.redplum.com, www.smartsource.com, www.couponnetwork.com, and several others have coupons available to print. Each of the websites will ask you to install coupon-printing software on your computer. This is necessary if you want the coupons because it prevents coupon fraud. 

Product Packaging: Keep an eye out on the things you purchase at the store. Sometimes, a bag of cereal or coffee may contain a shrink-wrapped coupon. A box may have a coupon right on the front that can be peeled off. Some coupons are printed directly on the inside of the packaging.

Newspapers: The newspaper is still a great source to get coupons. Our newspaper provides inserts every week. Additionally, if you get a copy of any paper and find that you like the coupons, go buy another copy of the paper. If you get the Press and find a $1 off coupon you like, go ahead and buy another copy of the paper because the value of the coupon exceeds the cost of the paper and you’ll still come out ahead.

Magazines: Keep an eye out the next time you open up the Ladies’ Home Journal or Good Housekeeping. More often than not, you can find coupons for everything from food to cleaning supplies. In a magazine like All You, it is typically full of grocery and household coupons.

Friends: If you have a friend who coupons, consider meeting up once every few weeks to swap coupons. For example, if you have a cat and your friend has a dog, then trade her your dog food coupons for her cat litter coupons. This can keep you from buying multiple copies of the paper, thus increasing your savings even further.

Next week, we will dive headfirst into using the coupons to your advantage.