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Stacey’s Guide to Saving Money

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
• medicines
• cleaning supplies
• canned goods
• soup
• pasta & rice
• breakfast
• 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?

Topics: Budgeting | 19 Comments »


19 Responses to “Stacey’s Guide to Saving Money”

  1. VenisB Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 7:40 am

    It helps a lot to create a coupon organizer that you can integrate into your shopping lists, which makes it easy at checkout. Have you tried FoodSupport? They partner with local grocery chains to provide food aid to local residents. Their site is http://www.FoodSupport.org

  2. Kate Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I’d love to see more articles by Stacey.

  3. Kate Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I’d love to see more articles by Stacey.

  4. Kate Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I’d love to see more articles by Stacey.

  5. Kate Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I’d love to see more articles by Stacey.

  6. Stacey Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Gee Kate, I bribed you only one time. Thanks for the extra 4 compliments ;)

  7. Stacey Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Oops, I meant 3! Hey is this increasing your traffic, JLP?!!

  8. michelle Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    You should delete the link in the first comment. It is not useful – it is a link to a site where you complete offers in an effort to get “paid” with a gift card.

  9. Groovy Mom Says:
    January 24th, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Nice tips. I agree with the Sunday paper. Around here we have special offers on paper delivery and you can often get it for $1 or less a week.

  10. Devin Elder Says:
    January 25th, 2009 at 9:22 am

    I love it! Saving = earning… seems like I work so much harder on earning $100 than taking simple steps to save it. Thanks for the post.

  11. Tina Says:
    January 25th, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I would love to see more articles from Stacey.

  12. GatorMike Says:
    January 25th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Another idea . . .

    Grocery sales run from Thurs to Wed (in Florida) each week. The ad flyers are in the Wed paper. When I walk in the store, it has a rack with these flyers and other coupons and specials. I plan my menu around what is on sale. This week it is boneless strip steak $6.99 a pound. I like the buy one get one. This week it was a name brand cereal, no sugar powered drink mix, salad dressings, coffee, etc. Last week it was boneless chicken breasts $1.99 a pound. I save a ton of money and I don’t have to buy chuck steak and chicken backs.

  13. Marilyn Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 6:59 am

    I like the simple tips to keep the coupon collector in the car. I always forget to bring my coupons!

  14. LC Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I keep mine in a 4×6 photo album that way you can see all the coupons you have. I rotate them by expiration date.

  15. Single Guy Money Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 10:48 am

    I’m all about the coupons. Those are the first thing I go for when I get my Sunday paper. The savings from using coupons more than makes up for the cost of the paper.

    One important thing though, if you had not planned to purchase an item in the first place, coupons can be harmful.

  16. Katharine Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    My only concern about coupons is that they are usually for the “name brand” product, not for the store or no-name version.

    So most of the time even with the coupon, it ends up being more expensive. Sometimes I’m willing to pay the extra for a better quality product but for most of what we buy, the store brand is usually good enough.

    I am from Canada though and coupons aren’t nearly as big here as in the US so maybe this is a uniquely Canadian problem?

  17. thomas Says:
    January 26th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    My wife and I will actually hold on to some coupons and hope those products go on sale. That can make for some really good savings. With coupons and customer cards we always save at least 20% on our weekly trips.

  18. Sybil Says:
    February 7th, 2009 at 9:49 am

    You might also check out a site like http://www.couponmom.com where store sales are listed, along with the coupons that have come out to get those prices even lower. Once you have a coupon for an item, you wait until it goes on sales, THEN use the coupon – and the price will be much lower (or sometimes even free!).

  19. Rich Says:
    February 25th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Great work Stacey and thanks for the great tips. The websites you listed (as well as from others) were a huge benefit. It seems the underlining theme from the post and some of the comments is to see if you can strike when there is a sale and a coupon for that product at the same time. This signals an opportunity to stock up on certain items.

    The only danger I see with coupons is being tempted to buy items you would not normally purchase. However, with a little discipline, the benefits of coupons far outweigh any drawbacks.

Comments