Woman Organizing Her Coupons Before Shopping

How to Make the Most Out of Couponing

Are you tired of looking at your grocery receipt and wishing the final amount was lower? We’ve always felt the same way—that’s why we always recommend using coupons. Couponing is a great way to help whittle down that large monthly cost!

Many people think that couponing is a lot of work for little payoff, but that isn’t really the case. Couponing used to be a very difficult, time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be anymore!

Since couponing has become popular, there are many ways to acquire them besides newspapers and magazines. You can use coupon websites, join Facebook groups, download coupon apps, and check your store bulletin board before shopping.

Just getting started?
We usually recommend visiting coupon.com for those that are wanting to start diving into couponing!

If you’re wanting to save more than just the occasional $0.50 on your groceries and want to make the most out of couponing, here are some pointers from Pelican’s Nationally Certified Credit Counselors and “coupon queens” Rhoda Hundley and Nekiba Johnson.

Set Aside the Time & Gather Materials

The first necessary step in couponing is to set aside at least one to two hours per week with no distractions. Some of the things you’ll need to get together during this time are:

  • A laptop or computer
  • A printer for printing online coupons
  • A binder with dividers and labels
  • Scissors for cutting coupons
  • Store flyers, a local paper, or any other mail subscriptions with coupons

We recommend putting all of these items in one area for you to easily access and have a dedicated “couponing” area. This way you know where all the supplies are when it’s couponing time!

Get Organized

We’ve talked before about getting organized to save money, and getting organized is a huge part of effective couponing!

When getting organized, you’ll want to choose your top stores that you plan on shopping at and learn their coupon policy. Check out their websites to see if they have any extra information listed there.

Take a look at your coupons that are on-hand to learn the coupon languages and policies. This will help you know which coupons can be used together (known as “stacking”), and which have to be used alone.

Next, you’ll want to gather your weekly sales ads. Remember those top stores we talked about a little bit ago? Now’s the time to look up what’s on sale this week at each place.

The key is to note which store has the best sale for your item. Don’t use the coupon just because you have it, and only buy what you need.

To help make the deals even better, sign up for store rewards programs, write down your shopping list, and, most importantly, set a budget.

Trying to budget for your lifestyle?
Check out this blog post from Nationally Certified Credit Counselor Lynn Gobert to get started!

It is best to set up a separate email and create logins to sign up for offers. This helps ensure that your main email address doesn’t get flooded with offers and promotional emails.

Using your binder and dividers, place coupons that expire soonest at the front. Go through all of your various coupon resources and add them to your binder. You can separate the coupons by category, such as toiletries, packaged food, frozen food, and more to keep everything even more organized!

Start Shopping

Shopping might be the easiest part! The next time you are ready to shop for groceries, open your binder and see if any of the coupons match items on your shopping list.

Sometimes you may have what is called an overage. An overage can happen when you combine a manufacturer’s coupon and a store coupon together. You are either owed money in cash from the grocer or get credit towards your current bill.

There are many scenarios that can create an overage.

Let’s say you have a manufacturer’s coupon for a major bread brand. Your local grocery store may have its own coupon for this brand of bread. Combine them together and you have double the savings, which may even bring the price to free or less when you purchase the bread!

You may also be able to use a coupon on an item that has been reduced or marked as clearance. Imagine you have a manufacturer’s coupon for your favorite breakfast food and then find a bag that has been reduced for clearance, and it’s now only $2. If you apply your $3 coupon to the reduced $2 breakfast food, you’ll have a $1 overage.

Keep Other Coupon Tips in Mind

Before jumping in and trying to use all of your coupons, be strategic and try to use them to maximize your money! Keep these tips in mind when couponing:

  • Some stores will not pay an overage in cash. You may need to fill the overage gap with fillers, which are items that add up to near or the exact amount of your coupon.
  • Stores may not allow you to use two coupons simultaneously. As we talked before, make sure you know what your favorite stores’ coupon policies are!
  • Not all stores may carry the product you have a coupon for, so be sure to know where you can buy the items you have coupons for.
  • Make notes of prices for your items. Some products may cost more at one store over another, and it may benefit you more to shop at different stores to use your coupons.
  • Write to manufacturers concerning a product you love. Being nice may net you a couple of coupons of appreciation.
  • If you have a high value coupon for several dollars off, hold out until that item is further discounted for maximum savings.

Have you ever couponed to save money? Let us know in the comments below!