Thursday, May 06, 2010

Couponing and other ways to save money

Before you say, "I can't do that because..."

Everyone likes saving money...but using coupons seems time consuming and not worth the effort to most people. It takes some time to learn it, but it can definitely be worth it. I started couponing in October 2008 and have saved between 50% and 80% on every grocery purchase. The amount of time I spend preparing my trips is roughly 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If I save $100, that hour of deal matching and preparation is worth it to me.

There are various degrees of couponing/deal shopping. You can use an e-coupon here and there, or keep up with a blog or two, or you can make it into a full-time job. I tend to think of it as a hobby and a bit of a game.

Another excuse people give for not couponing is health. If you shop mostly fresh foods and organic foods, you are always going to spend more than people who buy a lot of highly processed foods. But there are coupons and sales for EVERYTHING! Sometimes you have to sign up for company newsletters or do more research to find coupons for organic items, but they exist. And the newspaper frequently contains coupons for items like whole-grain pastas and bread, canned beans, soy milk, and cage-free eggs. If you want to save money with coupons, you can do so no matter how strict your diet is.

One of the most anxiety causing aspects of couponing is dealing with cashiers and other shoppers. Before couponing, I worried that cashiers would be suspicious of me and other shoppers would be annoyed at me for taking so much time in line. I have had a few unpleasant experiences with cashiers who don’t understand how coupons work, but overwhelmingly they are happy that I am saving so much money. And other people in line have eyes bugging and jaws dropping when they see how much I’ve saved – they may be annoyed at the extra 1-2 minute wait, but they can’t fault me for doing it. I have had a college guy who was just buying beer ask me where to get coupons and a CVS employee ask me how I work the Extra Bucks deals because she wanted to learn.

Bottom line: you won’t know if your reservations have merit until you test them. You can’t know if it’s not your thing until you try it.

Getting Started – Knowing the Lingo, where to find coupons, etc.

These two ladies have done series of posts on getting started with coupons…very informative and they will explain better than I can. They also talk about coupon organization methods – I am firmly in the no-clip camp (I save the whole inserts and only clip the coupons I am using for the day).
Couponing 101 – Getting Started
Bargain Briana – 15 Days of Couponing

Printing coupons and loading electronic coupons onto your shopping cards

One of the easiest ways to coupon is to add electronic coupons to your store loyalty cards. There are also many printable coupons online. These sites below are some of the most popular coupon sites plus the two grocery store site I use. Check the website of your local stores to see what coupons they offer.

Coupons.com
(THE printable coupon site...you have to download their coupon printer software the 1st time)
Shortcuts (e-coupons & printables)
Proctor & Gamble E-saver (e-coupons)
Cellfire (e-coupons for your shopping card or your cellphone)
Upromise (e-coupons that save for college)

Safeway (e-coupons and printables)
Fry's (e-coupons)
Check your local stores websites

Matching coupons with sales - 3 methods to try

  • Option 1 - pay sites
I subscribe to The Grocery Game and get most of my shopping deals from there. I subscribe to 3 stores which costs $20 every 8 weeks. I could put lists together from the different blogs, but this is much faster and more convenient. If you sign up for the (FREE) four-week trial, please put my name and e-mail (sydni.abrahamsen@gmail.com) in as the referrer. Referrers get free weeks, but I highly recommend it even if I didn't get that perk. I have saved between 55-80% every shopping trip since starting to use their lists.

Another similar pay service is called Coupon Sense.  They have free local classes available to help you get started.  They are a regional service, but may be a better deal depending on your shopping habits and/or local stores.
  • Option 2 - blogs
I read several blogs that give me info on good deals and coupons. I use Google Reader to subscribe to them all so I only have to check one place to see any new posts. Once you have a Google reader account, you click “add new subscription” and put in the web address of the blog.
A few to check out:
Baby Cheapskate (baby & kids deals)
"Deal"icious Mom
Bargain Briana
Be Centsable
Freebies 4 Mom (and non-moms too)
Couponing 101 (perfect for beginners)

Arizona specific deal blogs (for non-AZ readers, just do a Google search for "coupon blog" or "deal blog" and your city or state):
Saving Cents with Sense (My favorite!)
Arizona Grocery Guru
AZCentral.com Deals (a good heads-up on event deals too)
Arizona Local Coupons (printable coupons for AZ services)
  • Option 3 - forums
You can check some multi-use websites and forums for help matching coupons and deals. There are forums for specific states or cities where people post their match-ups. These sites also have coupon databases where you can search to see if there are any coupons available for a specific product you plan to buy.
A few to check out:
Pinching your Pennies
A Full Cup
CouponMom.com
Hot Coupon World
The Coupon Cupboard
Grocio

Finding deals and coupon codes for online shopping

These sites can help you find free shipping and coupon codes to thousands of websites. You can also sometimes get great discount codes e-mailed to you for signing up for company newsletters of places you frequently shop.

FreeShipping.org
Retail Me Not (awesome site!)

Getting rebates and cash back for purchases

A good deal can be made great when you get cash back or receive rebates. If you plan to shop online, start at one of these sites to automatically receive money! Each of these sites works differently, so take a look at them to see which makes the most sense for the purchase you are planning.

Upromise (saves money for college for you or your child)
Ebates (cash back in the form of a check mailed to you)
Cashbaq (cash back by check or paypal)
Big Crumbs (cash back by check)
Mr. Rebates (cash back by check)
Swagbucks (a search engine that earns you points used to buy giftcards & more)
S & H Greenpoints (like the old green stamps saved and redeemed for merchandise, but online)


In conclusion

This is a lot of information and a lot of links...it's a bit of an info. dump. Sorry about that. I will try to answer any and all questions or point you in the direction of someone who can.

If you love that feeling of finding a great deal or getting that perfect outfit on the clearance rack...you will probably enjoy couponing. Give it a try!

4 comments:

Sydni said...

Holy Moley! I finally got this post to a point where it doesn't look horrendous. I had some major format issues that kept me from finishing this post for several days.

olivedirect said...

What a plethora of great information! I've done a little couponing, but I'm going to investigate more of the resources you point out here, especially the e-coupons. Thank you for sharing!

Sydni said...

Glad you liked it Olivia. Let me know if you have questions!

Jennifer said...

Using coupon codes is a great way to save money. I like to recommend KindCoupons.org for more coupon codes.