The art & science of couponing

If you’re looking for a fun way to save big money on those time-consuming trips to the grocery store, couponing may be the ticket for you! With a dash of competitive spirit and these tips from a pro couponer, you’ll be ready to shop — armed with a colorful array of money-saving coupons.

Mom and daughter cutting coupons

Get educated

Savvy shopping tip:  You can use up to one store coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon on each item. Many coupons don’t expire for a month or more, so hold onto them until the item goes on sale to slash the price even more!

Couponing has become all the rage with economic pressures and advanced online resources and tools. The first thing to realize is there are two different types of coupons: Manufacturer and store. Manufacturer coupons come from companies such as Kraft and General Mills, and, when you use them, the store gets reimbursed for face value of the coupon. Store coupons are simply those created and distributed by stores, such as Target.

Don’t be brand loyal

Savvy shopping tip: It’s possible to get toiletries and dental hygiene products for free or at heavy discounts at pharmacies, grocery stores and discount retailers with coupons. The best sale price comes up every three to four months, so be prepared. Also look for “peelies” — coupons located in store aisles.

Saving money with coupons often means ditching your favorite brands. The good part? You’ll always shop name brands because store brands typically don’t offer coupons. Only fair-weathered fans may survive in a coupon world, but the payoffs — er, lack of paying — are worth it. So you change your shampoo every couple months, but you could save enough money to buy that Coach purse you’ve been eyeing!

Get organized

According to Megan Banks, an administrative assistant, wife and avid couponer in Arizona, there are three ways to organize your coupons:

  1. Binder. Get a three-ring binder and fill it with baseball card sleeves. Separate sections with plastic pocket folder dividers, and file away your clipped coupons by category (dental, frozen foods, meat, dairy, pasta, snacks, condiments). Use a wet-erase marker to write the expiration date on the plastic sleeve for each coupon, and keep store receipts in the divider pockets.
  2. Box. This is similar to the binder method, but you use index cards as dividers and file the loose coupons.
  3. Bin. Purchase a plastic box that accommodates hanging files with tabs. Assign one letter of the alphabet to each of the 26 files. If you opt to pay for tracking, they will assign a unique code (for example, “H45”) for each coupon to help you locate it in your bin.
Savvy shopping tip: You can find most coupons in your Sunday paper. Subscribe to an extra issue or two to clip multiple copies of the same coupon. Then, stock up when the item goes on sale so you’ll have enough of the product until the next coupon is available.

Banks has been couponing for several months and says she used to spend $40 to $50 a week at the grocery store. “Now I spend $15 a month for CouponSense, $12 for newspapers and maybe $30 a month on groceries,” she comments. Since Banks has stocked up on items, she also has decreased how often she goes to the grocery store and plans meals around the food she has in the pantry.

Great resources

Savvy shopping tip: Download an app that scans your shopper’s card for each grocery store and saves the barcode to your phone. Instead of carrying multiple cards, ask the cashier to scan the barcode that’s on your phone.

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