One of my best strategies for saving money is to whittle down my grocery bill with coupons. My goal is to save at least 75% every time I shop and have been successful most of the time. Once you get into the groove of using coupons, the trick is to know where to find more coupons.
The most obvious place is the Sunday newspaper. For the best savings, you should have several copies of the same coupon. (Why buy just one box of pasta for 25-cents, when you can get three or four? It’s only possible with multiple coupons.) You could just go out and purchase three or four copies of Sunday’s paper, but that will run you about $10 in most major cities. And, in my “cheap” world, that defeats the purpose of using coupons: To save money. There are a few tricks to getting more coupons at no cost.
First, turn to friends and family, for their extras. Even though I wish everyone clipped coupons, most people do not. Every week, most coupons are simply tossed in the garbage or recycle bin. To me, it’s just like taking money out of your wallet and throwing it away. Ask neighbors or co-workers to save the coupons for you. I regularly make my rounds to pick up extra coupons. I even have a few neighbors who graciously leave them on my front porch. As the line goes, “Ask and you shall receive.”
Next, search your community recycle bins for coupons. For many savers, it’s a gold mine – just know your city’s ordinances before jumping in.
Third, if you get the newspaper delivered at home, make friends with the “paperboy.” I’ve known friends who regularly get a few extra copies in their Sunday paper, thanks to a generous holiday gift. A $20 bill during the holidays can pay off long-term. Don’t offend your delivery person with a “bribe,” but it’s worth asking just exactly what happens to all of those extra coupons.
Finally, the best kept-secret is probably right down the street from you. (Many of my fellow super savers will not be happy with me for sharing this tip.) If you go snooping around on a late Sunday morning (or early afternoon) at your local coffee shop or fast-food restaurant, you can often find a treasure trove of coupons among the Sunday papers left behind by customers. We all see the papers strewn about the tables, sofas and chairs, but few are bold enough to pick them up and rifle through for the coupons. Yes, you might get a few weird stares, but who cares? You’re saving money! I’ve had the best success at Starbucks and McDonald’s.
More places to find coupons
Those Valpak coupons you get in the mail are not always the best deals, but you can often find a gem or two. Did you know you can print more coupons at home? Visit the Valpak website and enter your location to find printable coupons for merchants in your area — mostly restaurants. However, they have lots of coupons for services, from auto repair to dental care. Each coupon will show the exact location where it’s valid, so you know whether or not it’s worth printing. You can sort the list by distance or alphabetically. The coupons are updated periodically, so keep checking back for new discounts.
Many coupons can be found right in the grocery aisle: Blinkies, a coupon dispenser attached to store shelves (usually with a blinking light to get your attention, hence the name); Peelies, coupons stuck to the product itself that you peel off for instant savings; and Catalinas, coupons that print at checkout (from a Catalina-branded machine, hence the nickname) based on your purchases.
Plus, there are many instant rebates when you purchase qualifying products. Many of these promotions are only advertised in the store, often right on the price tag. These offers can be tricky, so always read the fine print before loading up your cart.
Next time, you’re at the grocery store, keep your eyes open and read every sign, flier and tag for hidden savings. You might be surprised at what you find.
Your greatest savings will always come from being a smart shopper in the grocery aisle. With a few great money-saving shopping trips, you could easily have an extra $100 each month (even more, if you’re really good) toward those pesky credit cards bills. Living on the Cheap always has a great source of manufacturer’s coupons. Companies load new coupons at the beginning of the month, so it’s a good time to start tackling those bills by clipping coupons.