You don't need anyone to tell you that if you pack your lunch, brew your coffee at home, and switch from bottled water to tap that you'll reap huge savings by years' end. We've all figured that out, and those changes haven't made enough of a dent. You need real help, like figuring out ways to never pay for toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper again -- without sending you family to a homeless shelter. You've toyed with the idea of clipping coupons before. You've even cut out a few now and then, but you probably used them to buy an item or two at regular prices, and you figured the savings weren't all that great. That's because you don't know how to really play the coupon game.
Get in the game
Fortunately, the rules to the game are pretty easy to learn. And the savings are real. Maybe not the first or second week, but if you give it a month of concerted effort, you will see your grocery bill drop -- a lot. Want in on the game? Here's how to start. Does anyone in your family take prescription medicine regularly? Birth control, allergy medicine -- if you pick it up at your pharmacy once a month, you're well on your way to major savings. Start by tracking down a coupon for a gift card with a transferred prescription. Then transfer your prescription to your grocery store pharmacy.
TIP: Many pharmacies will honor competitor's coupons. Just ask before you transfer the script. Also, if your prescription is already at your grocery store, transfer it to a nearby pharmacy, and plan to use your giftcard on things like the aforementioned toothpaste and toilet paper.
Now, you've got $25 to spend at the store. Even if you made no other changes, you'd still save $25 this month -- not bad. But we're not stopping there.
Check out the coupons
There are some very good people in the world who want you to win the grocery game. Get online and Google "[your grocery store] coupon matchups." Guess what you'll find? That's right -- you'll find sites devoted to scouring the coupons in the Sunday paper and online and matching them to sale items in the stores to identify the groceries you can get for super cheap, or even for free. At first, you won't believe it, or you'll think, "But I don't need any tomato sauce right now." This is not smart thinking. The idea behind couponing is to stock up on items when they are on sale and when you have coupons so that when you do need them, you can shop your pantry instead of the overpriced store shelves.
Do not walk into the grocery store with a 2-page list and the latest Sunday coupons in a stack and expect to save big. You will be sorely disappointed. Instead, start with that little gift card you got. That $25 is your budget. How far can you make it stretch? Look through the sites online, plan your matchups carefully, and write down a detailed plan for your mini grocery run. Then hit the store and go for it. When you're done, go over your receipt carefully. Didn't get a discount you were expecting? Go back to customer service and ask questions. Use this as a learning experience, and grow your confidence. Yes, it's more effort than running into the store to grab things off the shelves. But in about a month, you'll find that it takes you about 15 minutes a week to make your list and do your matchups, and it will be time well spent. Are you using coupons? What are your best strategies? Let us know in the comments!