This post is Day 4 in the Meghan’s Guide to Couponing series. So far, we’ve covered The Different Types of Coupons, How to Stack Coupons, and How to Organize Your Coupons. Check those out, if you haven’t yet, and then make sure you catch today’s post on when it’s best to use those coupons (and when it’s best not to use them)!
Tips For Maximizing Savings
Before I even begin to talk about when is best to use and not use your coupons, I wanted to share a few tips, or suggestions, that will make your couponing work for you so much more. Some of you may not be able to do all of these things right now, but if you can, I highly suggest it.
1. Get an extra fridge/freezer. This is so helpful for when you find a great deal you want to stock up on, but you don’t want the food to go bad before you can use it.
2. Pay attention to the prices. If you don’t know what the general prices are of something, you won’t know if you’re getting a deal or not.
3. Get over your brand loyalties. Or at least, know when you need to have brand loyalties and when not to. Most things are just as good with store brands or a brand that you have a coupon for, so try things out, and figure out what you can substitute and what brands you can’t live without.
When To Shop
One thing I’ve learned from reading other blogs is that all groceries go through sale cycles. About once every six weeks, a product will hit the lowest price that a store will sell it for. This is when you want to buy. And you want to stock up on it. Buy enough to last you until the next cycle has passed so you can stock up again when the prices dip again.
Say that you watch price of Cheerios, which normally costs $4 a box. But after a few weeks, it gets to the bottom of its cycle and it goes on sale for $2.50. You have waited to buy it, so you go digging around for your General Mills coupons, and you have two manufacturer’s coupons for $1 off any General Mills Cereal and two store coupons for 50 cents off a General Mills cereal.
You buy two boxes of Cheerios, which on sale cost $5. Then you use your coupons. Since the 50 cent coupons double, and you have two $1 off coupons, you end up saving $4. And you only spend $1 for 2 boxes of cereal.
Now, not all items have the same cycle, so you need to watch the prices in your stores and note when each item you regularly buy hits its lowest price. That price will not appear again for weeks, so stock up.
That’s when having an extra fridge comes in handy, especially when the thing going on sale is meat or cheese. Both are expensive, and both freeze well. There are almost never coupons for meat, but catching a good sale and stocking up is a major money saver.
Time of the Week
Each week, stores change their sale items. But they don’t all change it up on the same day. Southern Savers has a list of when which stores release their fliers here. (They also have each store’s couponing policy. After seeing that, I added the link on my How to Stack Coupons page as well!)
A lot of serious couponers will go the day that the sales kick in for the stores they shop at so they can get all the goods they need before others wipe out the good deals. You certainly have that option, and you’re more likely to get all the deals that way.
Personally, I don’t want to be running around town all week, so I pick a day and run my errands then. So I just hit all the stores I want to hit on the same day, trying to shop in an area where the stores are all close together. It works for me, and it saves me gas money, which is no less important than saving money in the grocery store. To each their own, though.
When/How NOT to Coupon
Don’t Buy Just Because You Have A Coupon
That’s right! Just because you have a coupon does not make everything a good deal.
It is better to let a coupon expire than to buy an item when it’s not on sale. Trust me on this. If you use a coupon on a sale item, you will get it for next to nothing. If you use a coupon on a full-price item, you will save next to nothing.
Also, if you have a coupon for a sale item, and even with all those savings it will cost you more than the store brand, just get the store brand of that item. Unless it’s one of those brands you just can’t live without.
And don’t worry about letting coupons expire! I just learned about how to keep those expired coupons from going to waste.
Did you know that military families are allowed to shop with expired manufacturer’s coupons for up to 6 months past the expiration date at their commissary if they are stationed abroad? It’s called the Overseas Coupon Program, and I just love the whole idea of it. That’s where my expired coupons will be heading soon.
Know When To Pay Full Price
Yes, saving money with coupons is great. But let’s get real. Coupons for produce? Meats? Milk? Baked snacks? Other healthy alternatives to junk food? They are darn near impossible to find.
So trust me on this one- it is better to spend more money and be healthy than to save tons of money on loads of processed foods and be a fattie.
I love chips just as much as the next person. Actually, that’s not true. I love chips more than most people. And I love getting a good deal on them. But in an effort to be healthier, I have found myself shelling out a little more at the register in order to get some healthy items into my shopping cart.
I don’t want to see a high number on my receipt, but I’m more eager to avoid a high number on my bathroom scale. Know what I’m sayin’, Willis?
Anyway, you can sometimes find better deals on those items in bulk, so shop around. I go to Sam’s for meat if it’s not on sale at my regular grocery stores. I can get a LOT of frozen, uncooked chicken breasts for $10 there, and since I’m freezing a few weeks’ worth of chicken when I get it on sale anyway, I’m all for getting it cheap all the time.
Don’t Be A Greedy Jerk
You know that show about extreme couponers? I can’t watch it. Those people are ri-dic-u-lous.
Here’s the deal. Saving money is nice, but it should not take over your life! Remember your kids? Your spouse? Your pet? Sheesh. They deserve some dang attention, and spending all day, every day, planning your shopping because you’re addicted to the rush of savings is so unhealthy. (Trust me, you really do get a rush seeing a big chunk of change roll off your total.)
Also, can we talk for a second about what to buy when you coupon? These people often buy things they don’t need, use, or even want, just to get it for free. And not only that, but they buy so much that it expires before any one family could possibly use it all up. Wasteful!
And one more thing- other people want to save money too! People who will actually USE what they buy. So, yes, stock up. But be courteous. Don’t clear the shelf of all sale items just because you can (exception being if there are only a few left on the shelf). Leave some for others to take advantage of too!
The one exception to buying things you don’t want or need just because it’s on sale, for me, is if you are giving it away. There are so many people in need, so many food banks that would be oh-so-grateful for donations. So if you’re doing it for a good cause, that’s different. Still don’t take every sale item, though. That’s just rude.
That’s where we’re headed tomorrow. And my soapbox talk about not being greedy should especially be applied there. You’ll see why.