The busy woman's guide to couponing
Superwoman isn't just a comic-book character; she's a symbol for millions of American women who do it all. Adding couponing to our already long list of things to do may seem even more stressful, but the fact is you needn't go extreme to save.
Following these eight simple tricks will have you clicking your heels over a $50 savings earned with a minimum of effort.
Never pay full price for cleaning products
This is one of the most common categories of coupons, thus one of the easiest to use. Even if the coupon isn't for your preferred brand, I find most ultimately get rid of the same dirt. BOGOs, or buy-one-get-one-free coupons, are particularly useful, as they allow you to forgot about buying that product for quite awhile.
Buy toothpaste in bulk
Extreme couponers say they never pay for toothpaste because there are always sales and coupons available. Just as with cleaning supfplies, this is a "low-hanging" coupon that's easy to use. Plus, if you buy in bulk, toothpaste is easy to store for future use.
Go high tech
You don't have to subscribe to a newspaper anymore to take advantage of coupons. Such sites as CouponSherpa.com allow you to access printable and online coupons from clothing stores like American Eagle to big-box stores like Walmart with the click of a button. You can also download several copies for bulk buys.
This same website also has a free mobile coupon app you can download that allows you to access coupons while you're in the store. A new grocery coupons feature is super-helpful -- just plug in your ZIP code and it will identify coupons for your local outlet. You can then download desired coupons to your club card for that supermarket, and the cash register will deduct the savings at checkout.
Here's another category that always falls into the easy-to-find range. Vitamins, cold medications and other over-the-counters are consistent coupon offers. You must be willing to use different brands, but check the contents and you'll usually find they're actually all alike. Store brands are particularly inexpensive -- usually at least half the price of big names -- but they're identical in content.
Examine deal-of-the-day coupon offers closely
Those Groupon-style vouchers look mighty tasty and are easy to access, but they're often not worth the expense. You may think you'll drive 20 minutes for a massage when you buy the coupon, then run out of time before the expiration date. And you're not always sure what you're going to get: I once bought a beauty-salon coupon only to find an unappetizing, hole-in-the-wall spa when I arrived.
I'm not saying all these deals are bad; they're just more complicated than you may think. There are some coupons like the one LivingSocial recently offered for a one-year AAA membership at half-price. That's a great deal if you drive an old clunker.
Don't toss your receipt
Most supermarkets offer Catalina coupons, which are attached to your receipt. These freebies are targeted to your shopping preferences because the cash register spits them out based on the purchases you've just made. Some are from competing brands and others are for the same brand you purchased. Again, it helps to be flexible. For more ways receipts can help you save money, check out the following blog post from SimplyBudgeted.com.
Do some basic organization
You don't have to keep a super-fat binder to use coupons. A small, letter-size accordion file allows you to sort by type of coupon so you can access them when you're in the proper aisle. The key is to pop the coupon into your case as soon as you find it. You can sort new ones and purge old ones while stuck in traffic or waiting in line, since the file is readily available in your purse.
Use easy blinkies, peelies and tear pads
You'll find these coupons either on or next to the product you're about to buy. What could be easier than that? Blinkies are little black boxes located in the aisle that belch out coupons when you need them. Peelies are actually attached to the product. Tear pads are your basic coupons, usually displayed next to the product instead of advertised elsewhere.