Do extreme couponers have you throwing up your hands in despair? Are you so overwhelmed by their complicated systems and huge savings that you don’t use coupons at all? Try these low-maintenance couponing tips and watch your savings add up without a lot of effort.
Extreme: Monitor dozens of coupon sources and spend time hunting down coveted coupon codes and inserts.
Effortless: Let the coupons come to you.
Time-savvy shoppers collect coupons without searching for them. The coupons that arrive with your newspaper and daily mail are the tip of the iceberg. Many of your favorite stores and brands will email coupons directly to your inbox. General Mills, for example, delivers coupons along with its Live Better America e-newsletter. Customer loyalty programs, such as CVS Pharmacy’s ExtraCare Rewards Program, are another source of coupons that are printed with your receipt or loaded onto your card based on your purchases. Many of these programs, like Safeway’s just for U Club, now provide smartphone apps that put coupons at your fingertips as you shop. Learn more about couponing via smartphone in our article about craft store smartphone apps.
Extreme: Clip and save every coupon you come across.
Effortless: Only keep the coupons you know you’ll use.
“Don’t clip coupons just because you think you may try something,” says Yat-Yee Chong, a Living on the Cheap reader from Fort Collins, Colo. “It’s usually a waste of time.” Use the same clutter-free approach with coupon mailers and email coupons. Immediately print, clip and file coupons you know you’ll use. Recycle or delete the rest. (You can always find current coupons on our Coupons page.)
Extreme: Have an elaborate coupon filing and storage system.
Effortless: Stash all your coupons in one grab-and-go container.
Jenni Derryberry Mann, a Living on the Cheap reader from Nashville, Tenn., keeps coupons in a Ziploc bag attached to the refrigerator with a magnetic clip. She says her coupons are “easy to file, easy to see and easy to purge every couple months.” Nicole Ford, a reader from Shoreview, Minn., suggests keeping restaurant coupons in the car. Other portable storage ideas: expandable files, diaper bags, purse compartments, recyclable grocery bags.
Extreme: Shop several stores each week to capitalize on store-specific savings.
Effortless: Shop strategically at one store.
Shopping at one store makes it easier to snag that store’s best deals. Choose a conveniently located store where you enjoy shopping. Monitor discounts on products you already purchase. Scan the store’s website for coupons before leaving home. Target, for example, offers dozens of printable online coupons. Join your store’s customer loyalty program and shop on double coupon or other discount days. Find more grocery shopping tips in our post on saving big at the supermarket.
Extreme: Calculate discounts to the penny.
Effortless: Use simple techniques to estimate savings.
Laura Laing, author of Math for Grownups, explains how the average shopper can benefit from basic math. Laing recommends rounding costs to the nearest dime for quick calculations. For example, a bottle of salad dressing costs $1.49. You can use a coupon for 50 cents off 2 bottles or a 25% shopper’s club discount. Rounding the original price to $1.50 simplifies finding the best deal. With the coupon, you’ll pay about $2.50 for two bottles of dressing ($1.50 + $1.50 = $3.00; $3.00 – 50 cents = $2.50). With the shopper’s club discount, you’ll pay about $2.25 for two bottles of dressing ($1.50 + $1.50 = $3.00; $3.00 x 0.25 = 75 cents; $3.00 – 75 cents = $2.25). You’ll find that the shopper’s club is the best deal and can probably do most of the math in your head.
Laing adds, “It’s a good idea to learn how to find 10%, 20%, 25% and 50% off very quickly.” To find 10% off, start with the full price and move the decimal one place to the left. That number is your discount, which you can subtract from the original price to find the discounted price. To find 20% off, simply double the 10% discount. Again, subtract from the original price to find the discounted price. A 50% discount means you’ll pay half the sticker price. To calculate a 25% discount, divide the 50% discount in half again, and then multiply that discount by 3 to find the sale price. To read more about calculating percent-off discounts, visit Laing’s blog.
What are your best tips for saving money on groceries, with or without coupons, that don’t have you devoting 20 hours a week to planning your shopping trips?
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- 10 ways to save big at the supermarket