What are all the cool kids doing these days?
I don’t know if it’s the economy, the popular tv show, the need to save money or all three of those things combined, but it’s seems everyone is using coupons these days. So much so that “coupon” is no longer just a noun, it’s also a verb.
I am always trying (and mostly failing) to save money, but I’m not an extreme couponer by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, my first few times trying to use a coupon, I would find the item in the store, get to the counter and promptly forget I have a coupon in my purse. #FAIL! To combat this, after I’ve found the products I’m looking for, I carry the coupons I’m wanting to use in my hand. That way, when I get to the register, I dont forget to use the coupon!
See? I’m getting better at this thing.
When I started using coupons, I had to decide two things first.
1) Decide that saving ANY amount of money is better than saving NO money. When I first wanted to get into couponing, I was disappointed to find that many coupons were only 25 or 50 cents off. That’s nothing!, I thought to myself. But what’s “nothing”, I realized, is the amount I save without a coupon. Just as money I spend adds up, so does money I save.
2) Decide to only use coupons on things I actually buy. Here’s the sneaky thing about coupons, they make me want to buy things I’ve never considered purchasing. $1 off PediaSure is not a “good deal” considering I don’t drink PediaSure. I’m constantly reminding myself that saving 75 cents on a $5 item I’d never buy otherwise, is still wasting $4.25. No bueno.
After I decided those two things, I just needed to find the coupons. To me, this is the easiest part.
Mail – I’m not sure about people who live in houses, but if you live in an apartment, I’m sure you get all sort of junk mail…with grocery store ads and coupons inside. Sure, most of it is ads for personalized checks or discounted Proactive, but you can find some gems in that junk! Once, I found a coupon for $30 off at Meijer (a popular 24-hour, Walmart like store in Ohio). All I had to do was fill a prescription and, coincidentally, I had just gotten a prescription from my OB/GYN that I hadn’t gotten filled yet. Super win!!!
Magazines – There are always beauty and cosmetic coupons in women’s magazines. Most of the time, you flip right past them while reading, but go back and check out those inserts “$2 off any L’Oreal product”? WIN! Some magazines (like “All You”) have tons of coupons.
Newspapers – Of course, you can find the same ads that come in the mail in newspapers, but also in the black & white pages, there are sometimes great coupons that you can cut out.
ValPak – I love ValPaks! They have great coupons for places close to your house. Many are for tanning salons or the local gym but some are for local restaurants and entertainment.
Community Calendar – Similar to the ValPak, Community Calendars also have great coupons for local restaurants and businesses.
Cell Phone – I haven’t had much luck with coupon apps, but sometimes I find coupons using the internet on my phone and merchants will take them just like that (either by scanning the barcode or just acknowledging I had a virtual coupon).
After collecting my coupons, I needed to find a way to organize them. I went to the Container Store and bought a small coupon organizer. I labeled each section after sections in the store: frozen, juice, dairy etc. I also added labels for fast food, restaurants, coffee/ice cream. I carry this organizer in my purse so I always have my coupons with me! (Sidenote: Don’t forget restaurants!!! Just last night, I had dinner with my friend Tareya at TGI Fridays and she had two coupons: One for $5 off and one for 20% off. So, even though we split the check, we both got to use a coupon!)
Saving even more:
The other day, I combined coupons for the first time. The product was $6 and I had both a coupon for $2 off and a coupon for $3 off, so I got a $6 item for only a dollar! Also, some stores – such as Giant Eagle and Kroger – double coupons that are 99 cents or less. I like to go to those stores, but I think the majority of their items are SO overpriced that it’s not worth saving money on one or two items only to pay more than I should on everything else. So, I take the weekly ads from other stores (such as Krogers) to Walmart. Walmart will match the prices in the ad, so that way I know I’m getting the cheapest prices in general, plus Kroger’s sale prices, plus I have my coupons! Win, win, WIN!
Splitting entrees at restaurants is a great way to save money — especially when you have a coupon. My husband and I had a coupon for a free appetizer at O’Charley’s restaurant, so we split the appetizer and split an entree. We both left full for only $10 total (plus the tip)! You may feel awkward asking to split an entree on a first date, but if you’re out with friends or with your significant other, it’s a great way to save money! And, don’t worry, splitting an entree doesn’t mean sharing a plate. Most restaurants end up bringing out one meal on two plates (this makes for more reasonable portions anyway).
Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are awesome for saving money. I used to ignore the emails I received because they were for things I’d never be interested in (A Wuggle Pet Party Pack??), but lately they’ve had some great deals on things I actually use! I have to be careful though. The other day, I almost bought an External Retro handset for my Iphone because it was pink and $15, but I stuck to my earlier decision not to buy stuff I don’t need simply because I have a coupon for it.
Well, those are just a few of my money-saving tips! While I don’t aspire to be one of those people with 100 packs of meat in a freezer in my basement, I am looking forward to saving more and more money each time.
Do you coupon? Do you have other sweet money-saving tips? What’s the most you’ve ever saved and how did you do it?