The Money Mom: Guest Post
One of the easiest ways to save money on a regular basis is clipping coupons – and yet, so many of us just don’t take the time to do it. I asked my favorite source on the subject, Stephanie Nelson, otherwise known as the Coupon Mom, to share some of her tips with us this week. You can find more in her new book, The Coupon Mom’s Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half: The Strategic Shopping Method Proven to Slash Food and Drugstore Costs.
I’ve been teaching shoppers how to save money with coupons for a decade, and the most common complaint I hear is that it takes too much time to clip, organize, sort and find coupons when you need them. Most shoppers give up in frustration after just a few weeks of trying to use coupons. It’s no wonder that 99% of grocery coupons are thrown away each year!
If you’d like to get your share of the over $300 billion worth of grocery coupons thrown away annually, then I suggest you take advantage of easy tools on the Internet to simplify using coupons. Last year we saw the greatest annual increase in coupon usage–a staggering 27% increase in coupon redemption. I believe this was partially due to the fact that more shoppers are using the Internet to find and organize coupons.
In addition to the Coupon Mom site, most grocery deals blogs reference what I call the “no-clip” system of using newspaper grocery coupons. In my opinion, this is the easiest and most efficient system for using coupons if you are crunched for time.
The system is based on the strategy of waiting until the item goes on sale before using its coupon. You might not be saving the most if you use the coupon the first week it comes out. Therefore, this system will tell you where to find the coupons you need and when to use your coupons to save the most.
Here’s how the “No Clip” System works:
- Save the Sunday newspaper grocery coupon circulars each week. Because 75 to 80% of grocery coupons come from the Sunday newspaper, you will want to get the paper to maximize your savings. You do not necessarily need to use coupons every week, but you do need to save each week’s circulars to have a full inventory of available grocery coupons. Write that Sunday’s date on the cover of the circular and save your circulars in a box or a file. I save mine in a plastic box that is slightly larger than a shoebox.
- When you use the Coupon Mom’s “Grocery Deals by State” section, look for your store’s list of deals. The list will always reference the coupons you need by the date it came out and the specific coupon company name. There are generally two coupon circulars: one is SmartSource and one is RedPlum. For example, coupons that came out on April 5th would be noted as 4/5S or 4/5RP. You will also find monthly circulars for Procter & Gamble that the system codes as “PG” and occasional circulars from specific companies such as General Mills, Kroger, Kelloggs, etc. If you use any other grocery savings site, it will most likely use this same coupon coding system as it has become a standard for coupon sites across the web.
- When you review your store’s deals list, you can select the items you like and print a customized list of deals for your shopping. You’ll be able to print a list of coupons needed for your shopping list .
- If a printable or electronic coupon is available for your item, there will be a link next to its listing so that you can print free coupons to go with your list. Last year the number of available printable grocery coupons doubled and is expected to climb even higher in 2010. Electronic coupons are easy to select and load right on your store’s discount card with no clipping required at all. The value of the coupon comes off your bill automatically when you buy the item.
- Cutting out only the coupons you need when you make your shopping list will take 15 minutes or less per week, as compared to the hours it could take to figure out each stores’ grocery deals and cut out and organize all of the coupons. You won’t lose the coupons because you cut them out right before you shop, and you won’t have to spend time sorting out expired coupons later. And you’ll probably save more money than you would if you figured it out yourself because the shopping experts have already scanned your stores’ deals for you.
- If you can’t find your store’s list of deals on the Coupon Mom site or on other grocery savings sites, then go to Google and type in the name of your store and the word “deals” to find local blogs updated by expert shoppers in your city.
Once you land on a simple system that works for you, then saving with grocery coupons will become automatic and can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars in real savings each year.