When it comes to saving money, coupons are usually one of the best bets. In most locations there are weekly coupon sections put out, and using them allows a shopper to shave at least a few dollars from the monthly food bill. Effective use of coupons can help a family save a lot of money, sometimes even eliminating food costs completely. While most people are not capable of such extreme couponing, there are a few simple ways to take advantage of coupons and use them to maximum effect for everyone.
The first step is to cut out the coupons and organize them. Some people have actual binders for those coupons organized by date so as to ensure that they use the coupons before their respective expiration dates. It does not matter if you plan to use them or not at this stage so long as they find their way into a binder. This also makes redeeming them easier as you do not need to go through a pile of paper to find the ones that you want to use; you just need to go straight to the coupon and pull it out, saving money and time for all parts involved.
Next, create a shopping list based on the coupons about to expire as well as those items that are needed. This means that the list ends up being a mixture of those items that are needed every month and those items that will be needed later on, anywhere from weeks to months. The idea is to figure out which coupons will be useful and when to take advantage of them. There is also that a full pantry is the most effective and that the shopping trips should maintain that. This is another area where having an organized binder can really help.
When the list has been completed, it is just a matter of pulling out the appropriate coupons and printing off the list. All of this paper can be put into an envelope, all ready for the actual shopping trip. Some people will even include maps of the store with some locations actually marked in order to make the job of finding particular items that much easier. If the trip is to a new store then a map with instructions may be included as well. The envelope will carry any needed coupons, lists, and instructions, all to make the trip that much easier.
When it comes to doing the actual shopping, having a team can really help. For those with a family, this is the time to split up the list and give everyone a different area to look for items. If the envelope is being used, then the individual lists will be in the envelope as well. However, even a group of friends can make the list that much more fun to take care of and it is easier to deal with lines if there is a group of people doing the shopping. It also makes putting the groceries away that much easier.
There are some more advanced techniques that a lot of people use for their shopping. For example, some stores encourage coupon on particular days by offering double-value or days when special deals are available, such as soups from a particular brand. While it helps the store to keep things organized as well as clear stock that needs to be dealt with, it also provides opportunities for those that look ahead for those deals and plan for them. A little planning can go a long way in the coupon game.
Another advantage coupon collectors have is that there are apps that will make things a lot easier. If a store has a dedicated app, then odds are good it will send out coupons to its customers through the app. There are also coupon aggregators that will actually track coupons from local stores and collect them for you. You can also use coupons sent to you through e-mail on your smartphone at the checkout stand. All told, a smartphone with the right apps may not fully replace a binder with printed coupons, but that phone just became a little smarter.
Also of note are customer loyalty cards. For a true extreme couponer they may be more icing than anything else, but for almost anyone else they can be actually useful. They can give you access to deals not available to the average person, allowing you to grab something for cheap on the way home, and the points you accrue over time can be used to buy food. The loyalty card can also give you access to better coupons as well, even though in all honesty an experienced couponer probably does not need the other coupons. However, they can be nice to have in an emergency and can work well for most people.
When it comes to saving money, coupons are the best way of doing so. While the store probably was not planning on how efficient some couponers can get with their use of coupons, they can be used to make some pretty huge dents in the food budget. Some people have even been able to shrink that budget down to virtually nothing, but that is well beyond the needs of the average person. However, using coupons can make your life easier and save you a lot of money doing so, easily making the extra work worth the effort.