By JLP | January 23, 2009
I begged Stacey (Stacey has been a reader and frequent commenter here at AFM for YEARS!) to write a guest post on how she saves money. Why Stacey? Because she’s so much better at it than I am.
Anyway, here’s Stacey’s guide to saving money. I love it.
FREE MONEY is yours for the taking! No, I’m not talking about a late-night infomercial about buying real estate or claiming unclaimed property. Actually, getting free money is as easy as: 1) utilizing manufacturers’ coupons, 2) using on-line discount codes, 3) shopping through a link, such as www.Upromise.com or Discover Card’s “Shop Discover” and 4) mailing in rebates. Today I’m going to discuss my strategies for using coupons. If JLP will have me back, I’ll discuss #2-4 in a future article!
I’ve been cutting coupons since I was eight. To me it was a goldmine for the family’s benefit, far exceeding the allowance I was earning at the time. And since I helped my mom grocery shop, I got an extra rush from seeing them GET USED! That, obviously, is the key. So here are my couponing tips from my (gulp!) 36 years’ of experience:
First, always buy a Sunday paper because that’s where all the coupon supplements appear. If you know it’s an extra good week (say lots of diaper coupons or a Proctor & Gamble circular) buy more than one paper. (Full disclosure: I own P&G stock.) Your savings will exceed the cost of the extra paper. Ask your non-couponing friends and family to save the coupon papers for you.
Second, if short on time, have your children help cut. (They practice using scissors, you save time. They learn about saving money, you actually do.) To start, cut coupons only for the products you buy. I typically cut more, because often a deal appears that after utilizing a rebate will make me get “paid” for the item. Then at Christmas I donate it to a food bank/shelter, etc. I win. They win.
Third, as JLP knows from his years in the grocery business, items are cyclically on sale. During Lent, tuna and tomato soup are discounted. Learn the grocery cycles and you can stock your pantry at the lower prices. Coupled with your coupons, your savings can be immense. If you’re lucky enough to have a store that doubles manufacturer coupons, you can really maximize your savings.
Fourth, some experts recommend maintaining a price book. You track the price (and date) of items you normally purchase so that you get a feel for when something is truly a good deal and to start recognizing the pattern of the sales-cycles. I’ve never done this as I have a pretty good memory and recognize when an item is priced well.
Fifth, coupons are also found on-line at www.coupon.com or thru manufacturers’ websites, such as Homemade Simple, (Proctor & Gambles’ website), or Right at Home, which is SC Johnson’s product website, or even on grocery-store shelves in red, automated machines. You can also use your computer’s search engine to find them by typing in “manufacturer’s coupon” and the product’s name.
Sixth, you have to be organized to get the maximum benefit from using coupons. Don’t let the “O” word scare you clutter-hounds out there. Here’s what I do: when cutting the coupons, I stack them in categories such as:
• paper goods
• pet food
• beauty products
• cleaning supplies
• canned goods
• pasta & rice
• frozen foods
• desserts, etc.
To use them, you have to be able to FIND them! To keep this under control, I use those tabbed, accordion-like clutch organizers. Some folks use a plastic recipe box. The key is to have them easy to grab, and all in one place. Here’s the most important tip: DO NOT LEAVE THIS CONTAINER AT HOME! I have my coupons in my vehicle so they’re always with me. Do I sometimes go into the store, only to realize I don’t have the coupons I meant to bring? Of course! Rather than driving back home, I just walk back to my car and retrieve them.
Lastly, when making your grocery list, use the store’s sales flyer so you can pull your coupons in the comfort of your home. Then just staple them to your list and you’ll be whizzing down the aisles at record speed, saving money along the way!
Stick with the above steps and you’ll easily save $20-$30 a month as a beginner. In 2008 my annual savings totaled $880. Some avid “couponers” save more, but I only put 10-15 minutes into this a week, so for me it’s the right balance. Happy Couponing!
JLP’s Thoughts: I think Stacey should come back and write some more. What do you think?